We have talked about our fair share of transforming furniture. But what about a furniture system that assembles and also morphs by ITSELF? Well, a resourceful scientist team at the EPFL Biorobotics Laboratory (in Switzerland) is looking forth to create what can be simply termed as furniture robots. These modular robots are aptly christened as Roombots; and can self-assemble into a chair, table or stool. And the assembled furniture installation can even move across the room (theoretically, with you sitting on it) to rearrange into a convenient table!
Almost working like autonomous Lego bricks, each Roombot building-block module consists of three motors along with ‘attaching’ components like connectors and grippers. These come in handy for attaching to other modules or parts of a room’s furniture. And, the really interesting part is – these robots are are based on algorithms that are inspired by real-life natural counterparts (animals) that function via neural networks, like bees and ants. This collective ‘hive mentality’ makes the functioning scope more efficient, with apt gauging of the user’s needs, and consequent transformation in accordance with such requirements.
Now, beyond the ambit the technology, it is the practical potential of the Roombots that should hold relevance in real-time usage patterns. To that end, the developers behind the innovative project have thought of numerous applications, with the foremost being – assisting elderly people by making their furniture systems autonomous and mobile. Tables and chairs can now ‘come to them’ as opposed to the reverse scenario.
As EPFL Biorobotics Laboratory has described the Roombots –
…multifunctional and assistive robotic furniture that can interact with users, help them recover from a fall, monitor their health, help them transfer between different positions (laying/sitting/standing), help them manipulate objects.
The technology on many levels, also serves as an antithesis to the conventional DIY furniture kits available in the commercial realm. In that regard, Roombots project (which is a part of the ‘roomware‘ study) is about a furniture system that is actively fulfilling its purpose as an assisting product, as opposed to some passive setup that requires our expertise and actions to function properly.