Robotic furniture brings the dinner table to you

Lamps that follow you around. Tables that bring you your dinner. They might one day be coming to a room near you.

rb-box.jpg
Roombots bring the concept of going mobile to your furniture. EPFL

Robotic arms and other mechanisms have long been used to make or assemble furniture, but I'm not quite sure I've ever seen robots that become furniture. That is, until today.

Scientists from the Biorobotics Laboratory (Biorob) at the École Polytechnique Fédérale De Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have created what they're calling "Roombots," modular robotic balls that can roll around, join together and merge with furniture to make it mobile.

Each one of the Roombots modules features a battery, three motors, and a wireless antenna. They also have small "claws" that pop out to help them link up with a pal, or climb special hole-filled surfaces. The surfaces can be affixed to existing furniture and then the Roombots can get to work transforming it to the user's desires.


For example, in the video below, we see Roombot feet on a table that not only lets it come to its owner but pop up in height as well. Auke Ijspeert, head of the Biorob, envisions that this type of customization could be used for physically challenged people who could greatly benefit from furniture that adapts to their needs and movements. "It could be very useful for disabled individuals to be able to ask objects to come closer to them, or to move out of the way," he said in a statement.

Ijspeert says he also sees the Roombots being used as "Lego blocks" for makers to "find their own function and applications."

A group of students from the French national school for advanced studies in design (ENSCI Les Ateliers) seem to agree with Ijspeert. They've created this video that envisions the rolling robots as gardeners, climbing down the wall of a house to tend and harvest plants growing in containers affixed to the wall.

So how about you? If you had a squadron of Roombots at your disposal, what would you make them do? I'm kind of liking the idea of a desk that transforms to suit my mood -- standing height when I'm working, and comfy chair height when I'm just catching up on my Netflix.

Tags:
Crave
Sci-Tech
About the author

Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for Crave and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.

 

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