Carpentry, like most professions, can be improved with the addition of robots, according to MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.In an effort to minimize injury (i.e. unintentional amputations), CSAIL created the AutoSaw, a system that lets non-experts customize items for construction by androids.Simply choose from a range of artisan-designed furniture templates (chairs, desks, etc.). Then sit back, relax, and continue to enjoy the use of all 10 fingers while AutoSaw measures and cuts.“If you’re building a deck, you have to cut large sections of lumber to length, and that’s often done on site,” CSAIL postdoc Jeffrey Lipton said in a statement. “Every time you put a hand near a blade, you’re at risk. To avoid that, we’ve largely automated the process using a chop-saw and jigsaw.”Many carpenters, despite having access to software and automated machines, continue to do their work by hand—a cheaper, easier, and often risky alternative.CSAIL hopes its program can convince those holdouts to put down the dangerous tools and embrace the robot revolution.Running computer-aided design system Onshape, AutoSaw lets users customize size, sturdiness, and aesthetics, before sending the final blueprints to a set of motion-tracking, mobile robots.“We added soft grippers to the robots to give them more flexibility, like that of a human carpenter,” Lipton said of the repurposed Roomba and Kuka youBots the team employed. “This meant we could rely on the accuracy of the power tools instead of the rigid-bodied robots.”Once finished, the machines hand off the individual parts to the user, who assembles them like an Ikea flatpack using step-by-step directions.The tool offers flexibility for designing furniture to fit specific spaces—modify a desk to match your L-shaped room, customize a table to squeeze into the kitchen.“Robots have already enabled mass production, but with artificial intelligence they have the potential to enable mass customization and personalization in almost everything we produce,” CSAIL director Daniela Rus said. “AutoSaw shows this potential for easy access and customization in carpentry.”MIT CSAIL aims to “democratize furniture-customization,” according to PhD student Adriana Schulz (Jason Dorfman/MIT CSAIL)In early tests, the CSAIL team showed they could build a chair, a shed, and a deck; the robots also made a table with accuracy “comparable to that of a human.”“Systems that can work in unstructured physical environments, such as this carpentry system, are notoriously difficult to make,” Hod Lipson, a professor of mechanical engineering and data science at Columbia University, said in a statement. “This is truly a fascinating step forward.”Still in its early stages, AutoSaw could eventually be scaled up for more extensive projects; the team also plans to integrate complex tasks like drilling and gluing.“Our aim is to democratize furniture-customization,” PhD student and co-author Adriana Schulz said. “We’re trying to open up a realm of opportunities so users aren’t bound to what they’ve bought at Ikea. Instead, they can make what best fits their needs.”Research will be presented by Lipton, Rus, Schulz in May at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). Other contributors include MIT professor Wojciech Matusik, PhD student Andrew Spielberg, and undergrad Luis Trueba.