The Fastest Ever Laundry-Folding Robot Is Here and It's Still Slower Than You

We’ve all faced it at one time or another — the looming pile of clean, crumpled laundry that needs to be folded and put away. While there are plenty of machines that can wash and dry clothes, we still haven’t managed to invent one that folds them……at least not in a timely fashion. University of California professor Pieter Abbeel spent years teaching a robot how to fold a towel, eventually cutting that process down from a staggering 20 minutes to a whopping 1½ minutes. Now, Silicon Valley-based company FoldiMate is raising hopes and eyebrows with its prototype laundry-folding robot. It’s said that the machine can fold some 25 pieces of laundry — with the exception of small items like socks and large items like sheets — in under 5 minutes…….all for the low, low price of $980. Still, researchers are working on a new method they call SpeedFolding, which is a bimanual system — meaning it involves two hands — that’s able to smooth and fold a garment in record speed…..for robots anyway. SpeedFolding can fold 30-40 garments per hour. Only you know how long it takes you to fold and put away a load of laundry, but it’s estimated that the average person can do the job in just 20 minutes. So, why have a robot that takes an hour just to fold the clothes? While researchers describe SpeedFolding as a significant improvement, it's not likely to hit the market anytime soon. For one thing, the average robotic laundry folder retails for $58,000. If you’re wealthy enough to afford that, why not just hire a housekeeper and get more than just laundry done?