Will modular “Roombots” replace your living room furniture?

Roombas were cool little robots, but that was so 2005. While it was pretty cool to have it vacuum and even charge itself for me, my Roomba always found a way to trap itself under pieces of furniture. I never had the best of luck with them, but maybe I should have blamed my furniture for not moving.

Roombots to the rescue

Image credit: Biorobotics Laboratory, EPFL

Image credit: Biorobotics Laboratory, EPFL

Now, with the invention of Roombots, your furniture can now move itself. Never again will you have to worry about your Roomba getting trapped.

The whole idea sounds a bit crazy – your chair can transform into a table and your table could transform into a chair. Or perhaps I could use these modular bots to turn my kitchen table into a dividing wall for my studio apartment.

Image credit: Biorobotics Laboratory, EPFL

Image credit: Biorobotics Laboratory, EPFL

Some more practical applications for these robots may be assistive furniture for the disabled. The furniture could adapt to their specific needs when they need it to.

With a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation, researchers are working on creating multifunctional assistive robotic furniture to interact with users. By interaction, I don’t mean you will be talking to your furniture – I think it would be a bit weird getting used to that. However, the Roombots may be able to help the disabled or elderly recover from a fall, move them into different positions, move objects, or monitor their health.

Roombots? Will people really want these?

I love pretending to have psychic abilities to predict the future, so I’ll tell you what I think. As far as furniture goes, I don’t think your average folk will want to ever change their stylish (or not so stylish) table and chairs with robots. I couldn’t imagine a couch made of these would be very comfortable either. And I sort of like my modern white hipster couch too.

If they ever come to the market, I think I can almost guarantee that only the biggest geeks and nerds would be getting them. And I don’t doubt that there would be a group of geeks that create a Roombot subreddit just like they did for Roomba.

But despite the enthusiasm the technology is creating amongst nerds, geeks, and tech blogs, I really don’t think modular robots will ever go mainstream. However, I do think they may have eventually have limited commerical or perhaps military uses for moving objects.

Smaller modular robots might make a cool replacement for your legos, so maybe there is an application in that market in that area once the technology is affordable. No longer will you have to manually piece together thousands of pieces to make your Starship.

This isn’t to say that robots won’t be a part of every day life. In fact, if my predictions are correct, Google robots will eventually take over the world to serve you relevant and targeted ads as you are drinking your free Google Coffee while browsing the web for free on Google Fiber at your local Google Starbucks. Then the Google Taxi will take you home after you read the entire internet. When you get home, an Amazon drone (it will be powered by Google of course) will deliver you a book to read before you drift off to sleep.

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