This isn't the first time we've seen a laundry-folding robot. In fact, the last time we saw one, it turned out to be a faked demo. So when we saw that the company Foldimate had turned up again to this year's CES, we were suspicious. This time, though, the startup came with a working prototype in tow.
For those of you who read the words "laundry-folding robot" and were expecting a set of nimble, anthropomorphic hands, you're in for a disappointment. The Foldimate actually looks like an office-grade printer. It's a tall, boxy thing, with a feeder tray up top where you insert your tops and pants. And I do mean tops and pants: The current prototype can handle shirts and trousers just fine, but don't bother with anything on the larger side, like sheets, towels or sweatshirts.
On the flip side, the machine is also currently ill-equipped to handle smaller items like underwear and socks. Lastly, though the robot can handle a variety of different fabrics -- cotton, denim -- don't ask it to fold anything too thick, like terrycloth or chenille. If you're like me, this is all mostly fine -- socks and undies are easy, and most of us hang our sweatshirts anyway, right? Bummer about the linens, though. I will never be good at folding fitted sheets.
You might assume, based on the size, that this is a commercial robot, intended for laundromats and hotels. In fact, the company intended it as a home appliance -- presumably for people with large families, large loads and enough space for a fully stocked laundry room. That said, a company spokesperson tells me they've received enough interest from laundromats, that they're mulling a commercial version too. For now, this is just a prototype, but the company hopes to begin shipping a final version toward the end of this year, with a price somewhere in the $1,000 range.
Nathan Ingraham contributed to this report.