“Ratchair: Furniture learns to move itself with vibration” by Parshakova, Cho, Casinelli and Saakes

  • ©Tetiana Parshakova, Minjoo Cho, Alvaro Casinelli, and Daniel Saakes

  • ©Tetiana Parshakova, Minjoo Cho, Alvaro Casinelli, and Daniel Saakes


Entry Number: 19


    Ratchair: Furniture learns to move itself with vibration



    An Egyptian statue on display at the Manchester Museum mysteriously spins on its axis every day; it is eventually discovered that this is due to anisotropic friction forces, and that the motile power comes from imperceptible mechanical waves caused by visitors’ footsteps and nearby traffic. This phenomena involves microscopic ratchets, and is pervasive in the microscopic world – this is basically how muscles contract. It was the source of inspiration to think about everyday objects that move by harvesting external vibration rather than using mechanical traction and steering wheels. We propose here a strategy for displacing objects by attaching relatively small vibration sources. After learning how several random bursts of vibration affect its pose, an optimization algorithm discovers the optimal sequence of vibration patterns required to (slowly but surely) move the object to a very different specified position. We describe and demonstrate two application scenarios, namely assisted transportation of heavy objects with little effort on the part of the human and self arranging furniture, useful for instance to clean classrooms or restaurants during vacant hours.


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