Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I recently came across a fascinating new project in the robotics world that I am excited to share: They are called Roombots, and they are being developed by the Biologically Inspired Robotics Group, from the educational institution Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne. Basically, what we’re talking about here is furniture that reconfigures itself. Self-reconfiguring modular robotic machines, if we’re going to be technical. And when it’s not functioning as a piece of furniture to rest your tired feet, it can assemble itself out of the way as a random box or part of the wall.

I’m not sure about the aesthetic beauty of the first round of Roombots -  I imagine they would be pretty bulky. Unlikely they could stand against the wall with their eyes closed and not be seen. Nonetheless, this is a pretty interesting concept. No need to buy a whole furniture set - buy a few Roombots and have only the furniture you need, whenever you want to relax/recline/eat dinner/take a breather/use the toilet.

It’s looking like they may not yet be able to hand over their pieces to another Roombot if one needs to become significantly larger for it’s next trick - it might be manual for now. But, sharing robotic parts and autonomous repair is definitely in the works. They are pretty darn smart already, though  - their locomotion and store of knowledge regarding the types/shapes/sizes of furniture they can configure into would be unknown a-priori - they would learn over time, as they got familiar with their new homes, what they could and were requested to turn into. 
In conclusion: if any robots are going to develop artificial intelligence, I’m happy with it being my furniture. Besides being moody and not ‘feeling like’ being a couch one day, awareness doesn’t pose too much of a threat from my coffee table. Although, it does begin an uncomfortable thought process regarding servitude - using intelligent, aware beings as our footstools. Maybe when it gets to that stage we’re going to have to reconsider and decide how badly we need our furniture to spontaneously manifest, rather than reliably lounge around with us in our homes. 

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