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MIT scientists hate IKEA so much they built a self-assembling chair


Scientists at MIT are busy people. They’re probably too busy to build their own flatpack IKEA furniture, and they’re definitely too busy to sit around playing an IKEA furniture simulator game. Of course, you can’t expect them to do all that science standing up, so the clever show-offs have come up with a concept for a self-assembling chair.

Unfortunately, you can’t sit on it just yet – it measures just 15 by 15 centimetres – meaning MIT’s researchers will have to remain standing that little bit longer. It also takes around 7 hours to construct so it’s not the quickest of solutions, but did we mention that it BUILDS ITSELF? Because that’s really the major selling point.

Created by Skylar Tibbits and his team at the Self-Assembly Lab, the chair consists of six parts which are fitted with specially-designed magnets and thrown into a tank of water. Eventually, after jostling around at random for almost a full working day, the pieces will snap into shape as if by magic. Really slow, quite boring-to-watch magic – but magic nonetheless.

While it looks simple enough in the time-lapse video above, in reality it’s not as easy as throwing a few magnetic chair legs in a swimming pool. The volume of water in the pool, the strength of the magnets and the size and weight of each part can have a big effect on the efficiency of the building process. Not to mention the difficulty of ensuring that the parts piece together in the right way.

Bailey Zuniga, a student in the lab who worked on the research, told Wired: “At close proximity, each piece should easily connect with its corresponding component but never with another one. Finding a way to make the pieces more interchangeable would increase the probability of the pieces finding their matches, thus resulting in a faster assembly.”

Next, the team at MIT want to build a chair large enough to rest their tired legs, and the lab also plans to show how hundreds of chairs could be built simultaneously within the same tank. When the time comes to flood our living rooms to build them, though, perhaps we’re better off just building the chairs ourselves.

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