No Assembly Required

It seems scientists are harnessing the sum total of human knowledge and technology to… assemble Ikea furniture.

An article about artificial intelligence in the New York Times today discusses ways in which cutting edge technology might find its way into consumers’ homes. Among those uses named: ordering pet food, loading dishwashers, and taking out the trash.

Of course, the article also mentions that the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which hosts contests for robot vehicles that work without any human assistance, is upping the stakes by adding simulated traffic to next year’s event. Fair enough. That seems like a legitimate goal with obvious applications.

And since the contest started in 2004, it’s come a long way. Perhaps, these seemingly humdrum applications should be seen as another measure of how far the technology has come – out of the army, into the kitchen. But this trend still begs the question: does a nation with widespread obesity problems need another reason to avoid walking to the curb with a garbage bag?

Now, if they could only get the robot to bring the Ikea furniture home on the subway, I’d really be impressed.