Image: NTU/Handout

A robot just made an Ikea chair

Singapore's got serious about robots, and it's not just because there's a lot of flatpack to do

Robots at a university in Singapore have completed one of the world's most notoriously frustrating tasks: assembling Ikea furniture.

What it means: Good robots! Scientists spent three years making the robot – it's got arms, grippers, sensors and 3D cameras (don't we all). The robot – let's call him the Ikeatron 2000 – built a chair in 20 minutes.

So why have they done it? Well the scientists think that the robot could soon be so clever it'll be able to listen to verbal instructions, or even look at a finished chair, and build it. They're saying it proves robots will be able to contribute to us all having nicer lives.

But that's not the full story. Singapore is explicitly pushing for automation and robotics to do the jobs that cheap foreign labour would otherwise do – a lot of work in hotels and restaurants, for example – because they want to reduce the number of immigrants working there (currently about 40 percent of their workforce is made up of nonresidents). Funnily enough, rather than trying to replace foreign workers with local workers, they're replacing them with robots instead.

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