Japan is now responsible for perhaps the greatest household invention of all time: a robot that folds your laundry. Great news for anyone who, like me, despises this chore. And aside from folding clothes, it also sorts them and puts them away.
The company, Panasonic, worked with Seven Dreamers and Daiwa House Industry, Japan’s main builder of homes, to create this device which has been affectionately dubbed “Laundroid.”
The first demonstration of Laundroid took place in Tokyo at the 2015 Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies this October. CEATEC, as it’s also known, is a popular annual trade show in Japan equivalent to the Consumer Electronic Show held in Las Vegas. A demonstrator modeled the machine and revealed to the audience the full process Laundroid undertakes. She talks about how the machine relies on image recognition to analyze each article of clothing. She then mentions that Laundroid currently takes 5-to-10 minutes to fold a t-shirt, an amount of time which Seven Dreamers hopes to shorten. (See video below).
Laundroid is allegedly versatile and capable of washing shirts, pants, skirts, shorts, and towels. It will be available as early as next year for pre-order. Panasonic seems to have high expectations for the device, claiming it will free users “from the labor required in the folding,” which in turn “increases time with one’s family and for one’s hobbies.”
Japan is known to be groundbreaking when it comes to robotics technology. Since 2014 they have employed humanoid robots as museum staff and “emotionally-stimulating” robotic companions as friends. They have even started experimenting with a “robot hotel” in southern Nagasaki, run entirely by robotic devices.
Now, it seems, the robots are about to become part of the household.
So, is this sudden proliferation of robots in Japan’s culture really cool or really scary? The robots certainly seem to provide some practical upsides, but how much is too much? Do we really need this much help with our daily lives, or are we just becoming lazy? All questions that, unfortunately, have no simple answer, and will only tell with time. It seems like The Jetsons-esque world that was dreamed about in the 1950’s might actually have a chance of coming true. But only if we want it to.