Genius or extraneous? We tried out a laundry-folding machine at CES to find out

Foldimate

If you’re like me, folding laundry is the worst of the worst when it comes to chores. OK, maybe it’s not as bad as having to scrub your toilet. But it’s still a pain in the you-know-what, especially when you have a big pile to deal with.

Foldimate, an automatic laundry-folding machine, aims to make life easier by doing much of the work for you. While the device made an appearance at CES last year as a non-working machine, at CES 2019 the company debuted an actual working prototype with a slimmer design. I got a chance to take it for a spin, and while it worked well, I left the experience asking myself: Is this product really necessary?

Before we get to that, though, here’s an explainer on how it works: the appliance stands about four feet high. You put a shirt or a pair of pants into a couple of pinchers on each end of a tray that grab the clothing item and pull it into the machine. The machine then magically folds each item, spitting it out in a perfectly folded stack on a tray on the bottom of the device. It takes about 10-15 seconds per shirt or pair of pants.

Just to be clear, I didn’t put my own clothing into the machine (no, I’m not going to carry my laundry around on the CES floor), but instead relied on the clothing provided at Foldimate’s booth. The device easily sucked in the items and spat out a stack of nicely folded clothing.

There are limitations to what you can put in Foldimate: It won’t accept bed sheets or underwear, and if you’re looking for someone to magically mate all those bonus socks in your drawer, you’re out of luck. I should also add that this appliance won’t come cheap: the price is tentatively set at $960 with a release date of around the end of 2019.

So, back to the original question: Do we really need this device? I posted a short video of the Foldimate in action and asked that very question. And as it happens, many viewers responded with a resounding “Yes!”

“Hell yeah,” wrote @Jake_fromKC. “this is everything I hate about laundry, fixed.”

Other viewers, though, not so much. A few noted that this device attempts to solve a problem that isn’t really a problem. Others disagreed, noting that that Foldimate would be an excellent helper for those with disabilities, which is a very valid point.

So, after seeing this machine in use, I find I agree with everyone who’s weighed in on my Twitter post about the machine. Yes, it’s cool. Yes, it’s perhaps a bit extraneous. Yes, it’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist. And yes, it definitely could help people with disabilities. In other words, it’s right at home at CES 2019, where some of the tech is all about cool, extraneous, gadgets that are both impressive and often rather unnecessary.

Would I buy one? Maybe if the price comes down, and if it’s upgraded so that users can just throw all their laundry in at once rather than feeding the machine one shirt at a time. Until then, guess I’ll have to stick with folding clothes the old-fashioned way.

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