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Ikea’s Animalistic Robotic Furniture Moves for You, Humps Your Leg

Ikea

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From NYU’s ITP spring show this week, we’ve already told you about 3-D pop-up books with augmented reality and how cell phones could one day replace game controllers. Now Adam Lassy, another engineer and designer featured at the event, shows us that Ikea furniture is good for more than just minimalist Scandinavian design. For his project, called Ikea robotics, Lassy transformed a Lack table and chair into mobile, wireless robots with “animal behaviors,” which automatically reconfigure through a calculated response to the people in the room–depending on the furniture’s mood. Yes, its mood. Interior decorators are so yesterday!

The robotic furniture’s animal behaviors include timidness, neediness, over-excitedness, and anger. Using attached proximity sensors, buttons, and an over-head camera that tracks people’s movements in the room, Lassy was able to make the furniture move based on pre-programmed “moods.” For example, if a person approaches the chair too quickly, the chair would timidly retreat, slowly rolling backward. However, if that person approached it gently enough, the chair would remain in place, like a shy horse cautious of being mounted. If one gets close enough, he or she can press a button and sit down, having tamed the beast. As Lassy explains, the other moods besides timidness include:

Neediness: When the table senses a person or object in proximity, it stops for 5 seconds. If the person does not give the table constant “attention”–that is, pressing its button–the table will move on.

Over-Excited: Sensing a person in range, the chair will dash forward a few feet, then, as Lassy explains, “start ‘humping’ hopefully the leg of that person. This behavior was accidentally triggered during my thesis presentation, and it actually kind of humped [NYU professor] Clay Shirky’s leg, who was sitting front row.”

Anger: Sensing a person in range, the chair attempts to intimidate the person approaching by swinging its front wheels and inching forward. It then charges at the person in “rage.”

The next step, says Lassy, is “to work on the software and make the interaction of the furniture with people more robust.” He’s also planning to build an entire collection of robotic furniture, so his living space will be controlled by an army of moody Ikea pieces. Check out the videos below to see one scripted demonstration of the furniture in action, and one from the NYU showcase.

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This is easily the most dangerous furniture set you could ever own.

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About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.

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