Putting together a chair requires a combination of complex movements that, in turn, depends on such skills as vision, limb coordination, and the ability to control force.
Researchers Francisco Suárez-Ruiz, Xian Zhou and Quang-Cuong Pham used commercially available hardware, including 3D cameras and force sensors, to build two chair-building bots.
The robots did something that humans could not do. For a start, they proceeded carefully and .took pictures to identify each part of the chair. An algorithm planned the motions the robots needed to manipulate the objects without causing any collisions. Two robotic arms then performed those actions in concert. Feedback from force sensors also helped: When the robot needed to insert a pin into a hole, for example, it would slide the pin over the surface until it felt a change in force. Curiously there is no mention of them reading the instructions.
Altogether, the robots put together the chair in a little over 20 minutes, the researchers report today in Science Robotics. That included 11 minutes and 21 seconds of planning time and 8 minutes and 55 seconds of actual assembly.
Science staffers built the same chair, and they beat the robots’ time—but only by 50 seconds. Science failed to mention if the chair fell to bits or if any screws which had been hammered in out of frustration had to be surgically removed from someone's bottom later.
The robots also did not need to eat the meatballs