A team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has found a way to move objects such as household furniture without using castors.
Rather, they can be fitted with small "vibration modules". These are smart motors that can determine how a particular kind of vibration causes an object to react.
Objects such as front-loading washing machines can already move as a result of vibration, but where they move to is random. The KAIST team, led by Daniel Saakes, a professor in the Department of Industrial Design, has developed a system that knows where it wants to go, and goes there – very slowly.
The key is an "optimisation algorithm" that discovers which sequence of vibrations patterns moves an object in a particular direction.
According to KAIST, modules can be "easily attached to furniture and objects, and this could be a welcomed creation for people with limited mobility, including the elderly. Embedding these vibration modules as part of mass-produced objects may provide a low-cost way to make almost any object mobile".
The modules used in the experiments were made from small eccentric rotating motors that were sufficient to shake and then move four-legged IKEA chairs and tables.
The motors are powered by nickel-metal hydride batteries and communicate wirelessly with a low-cost ESP8266 Wi-Fi module.
The team designed modules that were externally attached using straps as well as motors embedded in furniture.
KAIST says the project could be scaled up to deal with "situations where attaching wheels or complete lifting is impossible".
Images courtesy of KAIST