Is the Age of Laundry-folding Robots Nearly Upon Us?

FoldiMate is one of two machines designed to automatically fold laundry that may be available to consumers in the near future. FoldiMate, Inc.

How would you like to have a machine fold your clean clothes for you? It could happen if laundry robots catch on — and, naturally, if you have several thousand dollars to become an early adapter.

At least two companies plan to debut laundry-folding robots in the near future. The machines Laundroid and FoldiMate configure the dimensions of each piece of clothing, then fold it into its ideal shape before delivering a stack of expertly folded clothes. Both are the size of a large appliance, measuring roughly between an apartment-sized refrigerator and an oven.

In the case of Laundroid, the robot's interior arms can grab, analyze and fold about 30 different articles of clean clothing and insert them into each of the four small drawers it contains. "The robot arm picks up the clothes one by one and then artificial intelligence recognizes if this is a T-shirt or pants or pajamas," Laundroid inventor Shin Sakane tells the New York Times.

And, by using a WiFi connection to connect to a server with other Laundroids, the robots will all continually learn from each other to perfect the most efficient recognition and folding techniques. Currently, it takes the Laundroid about 10 minutes to decide what kind of clothing it is dealing with and then a few minutes to fold it, making a single load of laundry take about eight hours.

The FoldiMate works similarly, but clothes are individually clipped to the exterior of the robot before being pulled in and folded by mechanical arms and rollers, steamed and then exported onto an exterior tray. There's even an option to add a light fragrance to the clothing for that "fresh laundry" scent.

The machines, which can't handle certain items like beach towels or baby clothes, are forecasted to cost anywhere from $800 to $16,000 when first available for sale to the general public. FoldiMate's expecting to start taking pre-orders in late 2017 and debut in late 2018. But all bets are off as to whether these robots will become a laundry room staple, and your Jetsons fantasy becomes reality.