Chairs may be among the most useful inventions known to humanity, but that doesn’t mean that a clever engineer or two can’t improve on the idea. As proof, we offer you this list of robotic chairs that do much more than provide a place to put your rear in.
You may have already heard of the “take a seat” chair designed for libraries. Each chair has an RFID card reader inside. When the chair is activated, it follows the user holding the card around the library, providing an ever-present place to sit while searching through the stacks. When the user leaves, the chair returns to its docking station to power up and wait for the next patron.
Perhaps you’re saying, “I don’t want a chair that follows me, I want one that follows other people while I’m in it.” Say no more: we found not one, but two walking chairs. The first legged chair, dubbed the WL-16, was designed jointly by a team at Tokyo’s Waseda University and a Japanese robotics company called Tmsuk. It uses two legs composed of several rams and a plate that acts as a foot. It is capable of maintaining its balance under the shifting weight of a rider and walking up a flight of stairs with a relatively gradual grade. It is radio controlled, but the joint team is working on installing a joystick controller on the chair.
The second walking chair we found, the Hubo FX-1, appears far more substantial: it also has legs, but they look a lot more like human legs with their knee and ankle joints. It also stands at an impressive 2 meters high, and is capable of lifting as much as 220 pounds. It is controlled with a joystick by the rider, but relies on various built-in sensors to maintain its balance and an awareness of the local terrain. Its designers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have not yet been able to build one with internal power, but they are attempting to fix that in the next model.
If those chairs are too functional and not artistic enough for your taste, check out this self-assembling chair by students at Cornell University. The chair is able to collapse into many pieces, then the pieces move toward each other, reassemble, and stand up as fully functional chair once more. It serves no practical purpose, but the concept of self assembling parts is intriguing. If you know of any other chairs that do neat tricks, let us know.