The last laundry-folding robot we saw in action took a long time to get a small towel neatly folded into a little rectangle, and that was with the video sped up.
Laundroid is no faster, based on a demonstration at the CEATEC consumer electronics show, which is currently taking place in Tokyo. It took several minutes for the robot — hidden inside a futuristic-looking black cabinet — to fold up a freshly washed T-shirt, according to Engadget. Although it did the task decently if not in Martha Stewart-approved style, it’s obviously not ready to take on a basket full of jeans and sheets.
The clothes-folding robot is the result of a collaboration between Daiwa House, Panasonic, and Seven Dreamers. It will be a long road, and four or five years, before we see the bots in homes. It will go through rounds of beta and corporate users first.
It sounds like the Laundroid is working through a similar problem facing researchers at UC Berkeley, who made a laundry bot using Willow Garage’s $280,000 Personal Robot 2. Clothing and towels are “deformable objects,” meaning their shapes differ depending on how it’s bunched up. A glass always looks the same, but a shirt has many different forms. Because these items aren’t folded in the same way, the bot first needs to determine what it is. “The challenges posed by robotic towel-folding reflect important challenges inherent in robotic perception and manipulation for deformable objects,” Assistant Professor Pieter Abbeel tells UC Berkeley News Center. The Laundroid is having particular trouble with socks, apparently.
One difference between UC Berkeley’s robot and the Laundroid is that the latter is a stationary object, whereas the former is mobile and can also fetch you a beer. The Robot 2 is also further away from coming to a retailer near you, so even though it takes the Laundroid seven hours to fold an entire basket of clothes, it still currently has the advantage of the more Rosie-esque robot.