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Panasonic Invests $60 Million In World's First Laundry-Folding Robot (telegraph.co.uk) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Telegraph.co.uk: Panasonic has invested tens of millions of dollars in a robot that can reduce the time it takes to wash clothes by sorting clean items and folding them into neat piles. The electronics giant will pour $60 million into the startup behind the folding robot called Laundroid, which was first unveiled in October last year. The domestic robot has been a decade in the making and is expected to finally be available to buy next year. Created by Japanese company Seven Dreamers, the Laundroid can fold a shirt in ten minutes and sort clothing into types.
Seven Dreamers is yet to say how much the robot, which is around the same size as a fridge-freezer, will cost, but Panasonic is reportedly funding just 10pc of the project. Consumers place clothes in a drawer at the bottom of the Laundroid, which it then identifies, sorts and folds using a combination of image recognition software, advanced robotics and machine learning. It can fold a range of clothing items, including shirts, skirts, shorts and trousers, according to Seven Dreamers. The company plans to release the Laundroid in March 2017, and will unveil more details at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

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Panasonic Invests $60 Million In World's First Laundry-Folding Robot

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, 2016 @06:23PM (#53335413)

    Does it mean a load of shirts? Haha my kids can fold a shirt in 10 minutes.. Including the time spent convincing them

    • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @06:31PM (#53335461) Homepage Journal

      My kids can make twenty shirts in that time. Each.

      But then again, they work for a Wal-Mart supplier in Bangladesh.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @06:40PM (#53335495)

      Haha my kids can fold a shirt in 10 minutes..

      This single task robot has nothing better to do. It is silly to spend money to make it faster just so it can have more idle time.

      Including the time spent convincing them

      If you want to speed up your kids, unplug the router until all the laundry is folded.

      • by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @07:31PM (#53335775) Journal

        This single task robot has nothing better to do. It is silly to spend money to make it faster just so it can have more idle time.

        A washing machine has a single task and nothing better to do. So does a tumble drier. Modern appliances speed up and simplify the task of cooking and performing laundry. Labor-saving devices in the home liberated women from a life of domestic servitude. It has been one of the most significant social and economic changes of our time. Nothing "silly" about it.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Yay! Now women live in corporate servitude instead...

        • Forty-eight shirts could be folded in an eight hour overnight. Why spend money so that it can be done in an hour instead, especially if that means possible damage to the clothing? It is no additional drudgery to put those forty-eight pairs away whether done in an hour or eight, it's just decoupled from the time they were washed. Mostly, washed clothes are not put into service immediately.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Washing machines haven't really gotten any faster since their invention though. If anything they got slower, as more elaborate programs and modes were added. Typical cycles are what, 1 to 2 hours? Ours has a low energy, low water consumption mode that takes 3.

          It doesn't matter if you can just walk away and come back later. It still saved you having to do that manual labour.

        • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

          I think studies show that women spend nearly as much time on domestic chores as ever.

          Yes, washing without a machine was a long and laborious task, but it may shock you to learn that people didn't wash 1-2 full changes of clothes a day in the time before the washing machine.

          • I think studies show that women spend nearly as much time on domestic chores as ever.

            Yes, washing without a machine was a long and laborious task, but it may shock you to learn that people didn't wash 1-2 full changes of clothes a day in the time before the washing machine.

            Bunkum. I'm old enough to remember my mom leaning over the bath scrubbing clothes on a washboard for a family with five children. Her first automatic washing machine was a godsend. Now with families getting smaller I have my doubts about your studies.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @12:08AM (#53337049)

        > If you want to speed up your kids, unplug the router until all the laundry is folded.

        Darn kids today, spending all their time in the woodshop... get outdoors! Get some fresh air!

      • by antdude ( 79039 )

        If you unplug the router, then the adults like parents would freak out. ;)

      • This single task robot has nothing better to do. It is silly to spend money to make it faster just so it can have more idle time.

        No, this falls firmsly into the category of silly gadgets, as it stands. There will be people who will buy it, but that is for the coolnes-value, not because it solves a tedious problem. A rfaster version with bigger capacity might be useful in a large laundry, though.

      • If you want to speed up your kids, unplug the router until all the laundry is folded.

        I've seen several parents just change the wifi password and let them know what chores will be required of them to learn the new one.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      my kids can fold a shirt in 10 minutes.. Including the time spent convincing them

      I want YOUR kids. Mine are un-bribable. They'd rather starve than do chores for money*. They'd make the most honest politicians ... and maybe the laziest.

      * Actually they sneak out and beg relatives for food, the little worms.

    • Nope, it really is that slow. The WSJ video states 5-10 minutes for a shirt, or 3-6 hours for a 40 shirt bin.

      Definitely a first-gen product, but hopefully in 10 years, they'll be a third the size and 3-4x the speed (fast enough to keep up with the washer/dryer).

      Apparently it can fold t-shirts, button down shirts, pajamas, towels, and shorts/pants in a mixed load. No mention of dresses in there... most of those get hung up anyway.

      • In my house we hang mostly everything. Only stuff we do not hang is underwear, socks, and pajamas.

        For my kids I installed a second hanger bar in their closets, so they get twice the hanging space in one closet. Shirts on top, pants on the bottom, dresses wherever they prefer.

        No point wasting time folding, stuffing them in drawers, and getting all ruffled up anyway the next time they go digging for something. Hanging makes it easier to find what you're looking for at a glance.

        I suspect this robot is aimed at

        • by unrtst ( 777550 )

          I suspect this robot is aimed at commercial applications.

          I figured the same at first, but this gen is a machine the size of a fridge that can do 1 shirt every 10 minutes. IMO, this model isn't aimed at commercial applications, cause my local laundrymat does drop off wash and fold at about $0.75/lb (including socks!) with one or two active employees doing lots of loads all day. You need to have an employee there, so you might as well have them wash and fold. Something this slow couldn't compete even if there were 10 of them - it'd be way more valuable to put in 5

          • by unrtst ( 777550 )

            FWIW, the WSJ article from last October (2015) is where it was noted that it takes 5-10 minutes a shirt. I don't see any quotes on its own site regarding that, and the article from the telegraph doesn't directly mention it, but does have a caption on a photo that says, "The Laundroid robot can fold and sort a pile of clothes in minutes", so *maybe* they've improved the speed?

    • my kids can fold a shirt in 10 minutes.. Including the time spent convincing them

      yeah but you are also stuck with kids, dummy.

    • "Does it mean a load of shirts? Haha my kids can fold a shirt in 10 minutes.. Including the time spent convincing them"

      My Roomba also needs 10 times more for vacuuming than the kids.

  • by Sooner Boomer ( 96864 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <rmoob.renoos>> on Monday November 21, 2016 @06:24PM (#53335415) Journal

    My Mom will do it for half that!

  • by TJHook3r ( 4699685 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @06:24PM (#53335421)
    I had a business selling laundry robots but it folded :(
  • Here's an idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moosehooey ( 953907 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @06:24PM (#53335423)

    1. Put your shirts on hangers
    2. Buy a bunch of the same kind of socks and just throw them all in a drawer
    3. Pile underwear into a drawer flat
    4. Only have to fold pants and shorts, and that's quick and easy
    5. Way cheaper than this thing will probly be...

    • What happens to all the unemployed robots?
    • Re:Here's an idea... (Score:4, Informative)

      by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @06:45PM (#53335523)

      4. Only have to fold pants and shorts, and that's quick and easy

      These are all good tips, but you can also buy hangers for pants [amazon.com] that are faster than folding and don't leave a crease. I do no folding: shirts and pants go on hangers. Socks and underwear are just tossed in the drawer.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Pile underwear into a drawer flat

      Why flat? It doesn't matter: it's underwear. If somebody complains your underwear is wrinkled, either you are wearing it wrong (Superman style?), or need new friends.

      • Always remember: They are not good for another week if you turn them inside out. Ladies, especially.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Panasonic also makes a cordless mini iron that can be used with clothes on hangers. The advert showed an office worker waking up one morning with his only shirt slightly crumpled from the night out before... And he fixes it with the iron and goes to work.

          I can't remember if it was Panasonic or Sharp that makes a washing machine that "irons" clothes for you too. It has some kind of high power air jet that somehow inflates the clothes and gets most of the creases out. It's not perfect but I'm too lazy to do a

      • >Why flat?

        You can get more in a small drawer if it's folded flat. The more underwear you own, the longer the spread between laundry days.

    • 1. Put your shirts on hangers 2. Buy a bunch of the same kind of socks and just throw them all in a drawer 3. Pile underwear into a drawer flat 4. Only have to fold pants and shorts, and that's quick and easy 5. Way cheaper than this thing will probly be...

      That's not an efficient way to store clothing and takes up a lot of space. Each item takes up the thickness of the garment plus the thickness of the hanger. And your garments aren't all the same size so there is going to be wasted space between bars.

      Basically, few people have enough closet space for that.

    • by vlad30 ( 44644 )

      1. Put your shirts on hangers

      While still wet will minimise ironing

    • 4. Put your pants on hangers
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      1. Adjust to mind state to be comfortable with wrinkled clothes
      2. Done.

  • by dohzer ( 867770 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @06:26PM (#53335433) Homepage

    Am I doing it wrong if I just throw all my clean clothes in a basket and place them in my wardrobe until needed?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I shove everything into the washer, then dryer, then hang the shirts in the closet and stuff everything else into a drawer. Nothing needs folded except towels and bed linen. Are you supposed to fold underwear or socks? Nobody sees them, so why bother?
    • Nobody sees them, so why bother?

      My Aunt used to iron and fold everything she washed, including underwear and socks.

      I asked her why she spent 4 or 5 hours ironing every Sunday, and she seemed to think it was the proper thing to do.

      She was a lovely lady, and other than the weird laundry thing, very normal.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I guess selling to the wealthy, but really if you have that much money loading and unloading the thing would be beneath you anyway. And why spend money to make the hired helps lives easier ?.

    I mean, I process an entire load of laundry in less than the time it takes this to fold a shirt, really ?.

    • why spend money to make the hired helps lives easier ?

      Yeah, and what's with all those washers and dryers? The staff can do that too!

    • by Cederic ( 9623 )

      Well, I pay my cleaner £16/week but I bought a £300 Dyson for her to use.

      Without the Dyson I suspect the same level of care and attention to my carpets would cost me £200/week from her and still not get results quite as good.

      I could pay her to do the laundry too (and did when my washing machine broke) but it's cheaper to buy a washing machine and do my own. Adding the automatic folder would be needed to really match the service she provides but it'd need to cost around

  • who is going to take the clothes out of the dryer?
    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      who is going to take the clothes out of the dryer?

      Oh come on, you're not thinking this through.

      How do they get into the washing machine in the first place (with the correct cycle) and then into the dryer (at the correct temperature) in the first place?

      • by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @08:56PM (#53336305)

        How do they get into the washing machine in the first place (with the correct cycle) and then into the dryer (at the correct temperature) in the first place?

        My Mom has been asking me that same question for the past 25 years, but I still haven't figured out the answer. As far as I am concerned, it is magic. I leave my clothes on the bathroom floor, and the next evening they have appeared in my bedroom drawer, all without me needing to leave the basement.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Duh! You take them out of the dryer when you put them on.

  • Folding is easy!

    I want to go stand a platform and get scanned by a 3D scanner, chose my options on a touch screen, come back in 30 minutes and have clothes that fit made by a robot. I will fold them myself, finding clothes that actually fit and don't need tailoring is far more time consuming that folding.

    • Folding is easy!

      .. for a primate. try getting a robot to do it. no, that shirt's left sleeve is inside-out - straighten it first.. okay, now the whole thing is inside-out. stupid robot! can't you even detect when a complex three-dimensional shape made of a deformable material has been partly inverted?

      how about we get the first poster's kids and put them in a box? they can fold clothes forever and we don't even have to program them to do it.

      you might need to replace them when they starve.

    • by magarity ( 164372 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @07:11PM (#53335657)

      I want to go stand a platform and get scanned by a 3D scanner, chose my options on a touch screen, come back in 30 minutes and have clothes that fit made by a robot.

      Substitute "tailor" for "robot" and there's an entire district of Hong Kong where you can get this done.

  • I've invented a robot that separates clean clothes and dirty ones and shreds them into neat piles. You can buy the licence on a piece-produced basis.

  • I'd be much more interested if I could throw in dirty clothes into the drawer and have it start by sorting and washing them.
  • 10 minutes for a shirt is no big deal. I generate maybe 6 washable items a day, as do the others in my house. Until my house grows to 24 people, it will keep up.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If it folded fitted sheets, I'd buy that for a dollar.

  • Some inside info... (Score:4, Informative)

    by fullback ( 968784 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @07:13PM (#53335671)

    I was a consultant for Panasonic in Japan about 20 years ago and I can tell you that after Matsushita Konosuke (the founder) died, it has been run by idiots.

    I was doing a walk through at a (now bankrupt) subsidiary that was the darling of the company at the time. I asked about trading data backup between locations in western Japan, since all of their designs and corporate history was on PCs. The vice president I was with was perplexed by the question. I asked an engineer beside us at his desk about back up, and he smugly pulled a CD-R out of his desk drawer and showed it to me with a smile.

    I took the CD, then the lighter on his desk and started melting it.

    Anyway, I remember the spirited discussions as they said the "Internet Refrigerator" was going to be the hit product for a decade. A housewife would look in the refrigerator, them make a shopping list on the computer built into the door of the refrigerator, then keep the list on the internet because it was the internet!

    I was a heretic who said it would never replace the paper, pencil and magnet. They spent GDP of small nation on that piece of crap.

    That engineer is probably a top executive now...

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      To be fair their internet connected air-con units are very popular. Like every other company, they developed a lot of IoT tech that ultimately failed, but had a few hits and learned from them.

      Japanese companies like Panasonic survive by staying on the cutting edge in terms of features. Why pay for a high quality Panasonic fridge when you can get a cheaper Samsung, or even cheaper Biko or whatever from Eastern Europe or China? Aside from quality, the main differentiation is features.

      Current Panasonic fridge

      • There was an unspoken rule at the time that Japanese employees had to go buy new consumer products when they're released. Kind of like the ultimate corporate Ponzi scheme - tens of thousands of people buying their own products with the salary from sales of the products they're buying. Or something like that . . . ;)

  • by John.Banister ( 1291556 ) * on Monday November 21, 2016 @07:17PM (#53335689) Homepage
    then I reckon it can tell whether a given article of clothing is in folded condition. So, they could make a much more valuable robot - one that goes around, picks up all the clothing that isn't folded and brings it to the laundry. Next task: clothing recognition - being able to pull an article of clothing from the dryer and return it to the room from which it was originally collected.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Next task: get the dead kittens out of the washing machine.

  • I wouldn't want to deprive my cat the simple joy of sitting on warm folded laundry. I don't get the big deal about folding; I just put some podcast on and zone out; the movements are automatic.
  • I enjoy folding my clothes and putting them away. Especially the ones I carefully selected and thus like very much.
    It's one of those many simple household tasks that have a deep zen-like vibe to it if you put yourself it in the right mood and attempt to keep a household leaning towards minimalism. Pure bliss. And no, I'm not joking.

    Same with manual dishwashing. I have a set of small wooden japanee soup bowls I use for tea, soup, cereal and everything else that requires small bowls. Washing them by hand is a pure pleasure. Something some rich dude who can afford a massive, complex, space-wasting laundry folding bot would actually pay money for to do on some relaxing zen-retreat or some non-sense the super-rich need to chill out from chasing all that money. I would cringe if anyone would put a bowl like that into a dishwasher. And I'd then probably hit him.

    This bot is something straight of of that "Brasil" movie. I only see a place for something like this in a hotel or so - where massive amounts of laundry have to be folded by a certain standard. And fast. For private households this is utter non-sense and a waste of resources and a burden on the environment. If you are so freakin rich and have tons of linen for your 30-bedroom villa then get personell to do your laundry just like any other self-respecting super-rich person.

    My 2 cents.

    • It's one of those many simple household tasks that have a deep zen-like vibe to it if you put yourself it in the right mood

      My vibe on this is that "I did this same thing just two weeks ago and I did it well. Why the hell am I forced to do the same job over and over and over?" Dishwashing falls into the same category.

      I would cringe if anyone would put a bowl like that into a dishwasher. And I'd then probably hit him.

      Ahh, grasshopper, if your path to true enlightenment through repetitive menial labor leads to violence, then you have taken a wrong turn somewhere near Alba-querky, Doc.

      I only see a place for something like this in a hotel or so - where massive amounts of laundry have to be folded by a certain standard. And fast.

      Ten minutes per shirt is not fast. And I much prefer that my shirts come back from commercial laundries on hangers instead of being folded and stuff

    • I enjoy hand-washing my clothes and putting them away. Especially the ones I carefully selected and thus like very much.
      It's one of those many simple household tasks that have a deep zen-like vibe to it if you put yourself it in the right mood and attempt to keep a household leaning towards minimalism. Pure bliss. And no, I'm not joking.

      Household chores, such as washing clothes, hanging them to dry, washing dishes, going daily to the store because of lack of refrigeration, and managing a fire for dinner too

    • Same thoughts here - just take a moment and enjoy it at home, but... I used to work for a company that made apparel. There is a plant in the deep south with washing machines the size of dumpsters - they wash 288 jeans at a time. Over 10,000 pieces are washed, dried, pressed, and folded a day. People stand there and manually turn them wrong-side-out and then, after laundry, turn them back again. They have to check the pockets to make sure there isn't any pumice left in them from "Stone Washing" - the rocks w

  • by Anonymous Coward

    1. the japanese are fastidious and nearly OCD about
    folding clothes... don't have the link but I've
    seen it...
    2. there is no mention of ironing, which is generally
    a longer process than folding... so you iron your
    clothes, then jumble them together in the drawer and
    let the robot take it from there...
    3. sounds like a maintenanc

  • by aberglas ( 991072 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @07:49PM (#53335907)

    This is the sign of things to come.

    A machine that can identify and sort clothes may have limited use by itself, but just think of what is involved in making it. Not easy at all. Tomorrows machine will be able to pick up the clothes from the kids floor, put them in the washing machine, hang them out to dry (I'm not American), and then iron them and fold them. And it will only cost $1,000. That is a machine that will sell once it can also make the bed and vacuum the floor.

    Now put that machine in a hotel and what happens to the army of cleaners?

    Anthony

  • They should spend sometime viewing youtube, I saw this being done many years ago.
    So it's not like it's being kept as some big secret https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @08:01PM (#53335989)

    "What is my purpose?"

    "You fold shirts"

    "Oh My God."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As long as it wouldn't nag me to death and get fat, I'm all for it.

  • Surly someone will have trademarked "lawn mower".
  • Did anyone noticed the line in the laundroid site

    "The data from loT network will be transferred to seven dreamers original server, to provide the better customer service."

    Where have I heard this before?

  • I have to take the clothes out of the laundry machine and put them into the sorting/folding robot? Shouldn't I just put dirty clothes into the laundry machine and receive sorted/folded clean clothes as the output? Shouldn't I be able to throw a pair of socks into the laundry machine and have it clean it efficiently and hand me back a pair of clean socks a few minutes later? Why do I need to throw a big pile of stuff into a laundry machine?

    The need to conserve water, detergent, power etc., forces me to ow

    • I might even drop to one set of clothing and pajamas if I could launder every night. Such a machine could create a huge change in the way people view clothing ownership/shopping.

      You don't have a lot of contact with women, do you...

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