Laundry-folding robot may take hours, but at least you don’t have to fold laundry

Japanese pre-orders for Laundroid laundry-folding robot set for March

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 2015 CEATEC consumer electronics show, which took place almost exactly one year ago in Tokyo. It’s the result of a collaboration between Daiwa House, Panasonic, and Seven Dreamers, and while it’s a great concept (in theory), 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.

All the same, it’s not your time the bot is wasting, and you’re still saving yourself time by not having to fold your laundry yourself, so we won’t blame you if you get in line to be one of the first owners of Laundroid when pre-orders begin in March 2017. While the bot will initially be offered exclusively in Japan, a “limited number” are expected to go on sale in the United States at a later date as well.

The Laundroid isn’t the only machine of its kind, and indeed, there’s a homegrown American version as well. Researchers at University of California, Berkeley have made a laundry bot using Willow Garage’s $280,000 Personal Robot 2, though it’s no quicker at the task at hand than the Japanese version. This is because 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.

Article originally published in October 2015. Updated on 10-05-2016 by Lulu Chang: Added news of Laundroid pre-order availability in Japan in March 2017. 

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

The best washing machines make laundry day a little less of a chore

It takes a special kind of person to love doing laundry, but the right machine can help make this chore a little easier. Check out our picks for the best washing machines on the market right now.
Emerging Tech

Experiment suggests that the best robot bosses could be jerks

Researchers have been investigating how future robot bosses can coax the most productivity out of us flesh-and-blood employees. The sad answer? Quite possibly by behaving like jerks.
Smart Home

Put away that sponge and let us help you pick the best dishwasher for your buck

Tired of doing dishes by hand? Take a look at our picks of the four best dishwashers currently available and let a machine do the dirty work for you. They’ll do a much better job, anyway.
Smart Home

Cortana and Alexa can now call each other as new relationship begins

Microsoft and Amazon announced a public preview of Cortana and Alexa integration. U.S. customers can now open Cortana with Alexa and vice versa. Basic functions such as calendars and shopping lists are available with the preview.
Product Review

Philips Hue’s Color Ambience makes smart home lighting simple and stylish

It’s not the cheapest smart lighting available, but for those seeking style and sophistication, it’s certainly the best.
Smart Home

Hands-on with the Glas, the most beautiful thermostat you’ve ever seen

Johnson Controls today opened the doors for consumers to buy Glas, the company's answer to Nest and Ecobee, the Honeywell Lyric, and basically every other company that thought it would turn that simple round dial on the wall on its ear.
Smart Home

The Glas thermostat is now available and works with Cortana, Alexa, and Google

Microsoft just debuted its very own smart thermostat (the first that it's created), and of course, it can be controlled via voice with Microsoft's virtual assistant Cortana. It also works with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Smart Home

How to set up your Lenovo Smart Display

Here's how to set up your Lenovo Smart Display, including what information you need to provide to the Home app and how to choose the right Google Assistant settings for your new smart screen.
Emerging Tech

Buying on a budget? Here’s all the best tech you can snag for $25 or less

We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 -- so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gear for $25.
Smart Home

Fraudulent sales of home alarm systems are on the rise nationwide

According to a new consumer survey from the Consumer Federation of America, there are increasing reports of bad actors using scare tactics and manipulation to sell fraudulent alarm systems.
Smart Home

A school district subsidizes a tiny home community for teachers

The lack of affordable housing in Arizona's Vail school district prompted the plan for a community of tiny homes reserved for educators. Other cities in the U.S. use the tiny abodes for homeless and economically disadvantaged people.
Smart Home

Kroger supermarket chain tests driverless grocery deliveries in Arizona

Kroger and autonomous delivery innovator Nuro began a pilot program in Scottdale, Arizona, for grocery home deliveries with Prius cars to test the self-driving concept. The first tests do not use the purpose-built Nuro vehicle.
Smart Home

Vitamix recalls 100,000 blender containers after multiple ‘lacerations’

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall of about 105,000 Vitamix blending containers after 11 customers reported accidents, including lacerations due to a design flaw in the product.