The future is here. We have in our midst self-sustaining homesself-charging cell phones, and even a variety of self-driving cars. MIT engineers are digging on the autonomous vibe, and working to develop furniture that puts itself together. Whaaaat?


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MIT is testing designs for a self-assembling chair as we speak. This news comes to us from the university’s Self-Assembly Lab, which—for the record—is not a lab that assembles itself, but rather a place where self-assembling technologies are developed and tested, pushing the boundaries of construction, manufacturing, and indeed your mind.

As of right now, MIT’s self-assembling chair has two requirements that make it a no-go for your next living room restyle. For starters, the lab-built chair that you see successfully assembling itself in the video is, well, teeny tiny. Measuring just 15cm high, it’s not exactly a comfy place to kick back with a magazine. Another key design obstacle may also be obvious to a keen observer: the chair can only assemble itself when submerged in water. Essentially, the idea of self-assembling furniture is really cool, and the minuscule underwater test projects do indicate that there is potential for practical use, but it’s going to be a while. Don’t hold your breath, unless you’re going under to look for a self-assembling bookcase or something.

Related: Rearrangeable magnetic block furniture is like your own fancy life-sized LEGO set

So, how exactly did this chair get so smart? It didn’t, really, but engineers strategically placed magnets at each end of the six chair components and then tossed them all in a water bath, with a pair of fans in the bottom to keep the water churning. Each component has a magnet set at a different strength that should only join with its corresponding furniture soulmate, provided the opportunity. After the pieces bounce and bob in the water for, oh, seven hours or so, your magical chair of the future does, in fact, assemble itself.

The Self-Assembly Lab works in conjunction with academic, commercial, nonprofit, and government partners, collaborators, and sponsors to make self-assembling future a real live reality. Hopefully, MIT will reach the point of a design that works on life-size furniture (and on dry land), and then we can pray they partner up with IKEA.

+ MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab