Laundry folding is not a chore any longer... or is it?

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Konstantin Sheiko
January 17, 2018

Housework and home chores have always been the bane of our existence. We can track the milestone developments step-by-step: first washing board transformed into a washing machine. First, an ice storage evolved into humanity’s first refrigerator. Washing up has been gradually replaced or at least alleviated by dishwashers. However, there is one vital chore that we have not been able to develop an automatic or robotic replacement for – and it is the laundry folding.

If you are a single person that keeps his wardrobe to an early medieval version of minimalism, then this article will probably annoy you, or make you laugh. However, if you are a lucky owner of a variety of clothing items, and you have a busy work schedule combined with eventful social life, then it might somewhat interest you. It becomes even more pertinent for those of us with children, or large extended families living under one roof. In that case, laundry folding might literally take hours of your life per week, and this is not an exaggeration. Statistical data suggests that we spend on average three hundred seventy-five days of our lives doing laundry folding!

Fortuitously for all of us, the locomotive of technological progress is almost unstoppable now, and what used to be the stuff of science fiction yesterday becomes reality today. Finally, there is a smart robot machine out there that will fold our clothes for us. Well, to be precise, it is going to be here soon, and yes, it will fold our clothes for us, but we will still have to help it.

Meet the Landroid, a sixteen thousand dollars per unit artificial intelligence-powered laundry-folding machine jointly developed by Panasonic and Japan’s largest homebuilder Daiwa House. The price tag is pretty intimidating, but the company hopes to bring the cost down to two grand or even less if it ever goes into mass production.

The Laundroid made its debut at CES in 2017, but this year’s show featured a new model. The refreshed design is strikingly more beautiful, with an added sleek mirrored finish that looks good in any room. Plus, the concept photos showing the machine integrated into a home’s walls make a lot of sense.

Because this is CES we are talking about, Laundroid was joined by another laundry-folding robot called Foldimate. Their first shipment will become available in late 2019. Though it costs a fraction of the Landroid price at nine hundred eighty dollars and is about half the size, it requires users to individually clip on each clothing item. The Landroid is fine with dumping the basket of shirts into the insert drawer but takes its time to sort it out, with the first neatly folded item produced in about five to ten minutes. The Foldivate makers claim that their machine can sort an entire load of laundry in just four minutes – but you still have to help it out. However, it cannot fold small or large items like underwear, socks and bed sheets.

Laundroid uses multiple robotic arms to pick up the clothes, which are then scanned by cameras. It is connected by Wi-Fi to a server that uses artificial intelligence to analyze the object, and a neural network containing two hundred fifty-six thousand images of different clothing items. The robot arms then determine the best way to handle the clothing, where to hold it up by, and how it should be folded. You will need a couple of hours for it to finish folding a load of laundry, as one T-shirt takes about five to ten minutes to fold.  This is roughly what that looks like:

FoldiMate, on the other hand, subjects clothes in the chamber to a special treatment that includes steam, perfume and fabric softeners. The result, say the people behind FoldiMate, will be garments that are neatly folded, expertly layered and ready for your wardrobe. The machine is supposed to be swift too, tackling laundry loads twice as fast as you would if you folded them manually. If you want the de-wrinkling feature in your Foldimate, you will have to fork over additional two - three hundred dollars, plus the cost of treatment capsules that range from fifteen to forty dollars each.

We will have to see the Landroid final price point when it opens up in the US for a pilot program and pre-orders at the end of this year. But it looks like for now, because of the price range, our hands are still the best folding laundry gadgets for the majority of us.

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