GE's $99 'Talking Laundry' box was built for the blind

The device works with most current washers and dryers, too.

Doing laundry might be dead simple for most people, but the visually impaired don't have it so easy. To make that easier, GE Appliance's skunkworks division FirstBuild -- along with the help of a 14 year-old -- has designed a system called Talking Laundry. With a name like that, the invention is pretty self-explanatory: it's a metal box (below) that audibly tells you how much time is left in a given wash cycle, and simplifies controls to one knob each for a washer and dryer.

Using a board computer and FirstBuild's Green Bean tools that convert code to machine language, teenage Jack DuPlessis (his dad works for GE and gave him the task) put a prototype together in the span of a weekend. Talking Laundry can even be retrofitted onto existing laundry machines; its sales page states that the module will connect to "most" current and all future laundry units.

Maybe best of all, these are available to buy right now and they won't break the bank. One unit will control both a washer and a dryer and will only set you back $99 -- a far cry from that $16,000 voice-controlled laundry folder.