To construct their IKEA masterpiece, the robots first 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.
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.
How does that compare with humans? We challenged several Science staffers to build the same chair, and they beat the robots’ time—but only by 50 seconds.