The issue the robots faced, MIT Technology Review explains, is that they’re not human. Seriously. Whereas robots can be programmed to do certain, predetermined tasks very precisely and very efficiently, the rather imprecise and inefficient process of say, building an IKEA chair just doesn’t fit within the robot’s standard modus operandi. Suarez-Ruiz and Pham were trying to address this issue by building a bot equipped with two arms, each with six-axis motion and grippers at their ends, and a six-camera vision system that supposedly gives precise readings even at 3 mm (0.11 inches).
But despite these impressive specs, the robot ran into issues almost from the get-go, mostly a result of its still very limited field of vision. The seemingly simple task of inserting a wooden dowel into a pre-drilled hole required a number of complex maneuvers (ultimately successfully completed) but after a significant bit of struggling. Really, the robots just look alternately blind, confused, or a bit drunk as they attempt to insert the pin. Which, honestly, is also probably what I look like anytime I take on the arduous task of building Swedish furniture on my own.
As much as the robot struggled during this initial phase, the researchers promise, “This work will continue until completion of all the tasks required for assembling an IKEA chair.” So prepare yourself for a lot more amusing robot antics. God knows this won’t be an easy task.