The laundry robot you've always wanted is coming next year

Laundroid will be launched first in Japan and the U.S.

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Shin Sakane, CEO of Seven Dreamers, shows off a t-shirt folded by his company's Laundroid robotic clothes sorting and folding machine at the Ceatec electronics show near Tokyo on October 4, 2016. Credit: Martyn Williams

The world's first laundry sorting and folding robot will go on sale in 2017, its manufacturer said on Tuesday at the Ceatec electronics show just outside of Tokyo.

Laundroid is the size of a large refrigerator and has a pull-out drawer near its base where unsorted clothes can be thrown in. A robot inside the device picks up each item of clothing and uses image analysis with artificial intelligence to figure out what kind of clothing it is so it knows the correct way to fold it.

For humans, identifying and folding laundry is an easy albeit mundane task, but for a machine it's very difficult. That's reflected in the size of the device and its speed. During a demonstration on Tuesday it took about 10 minutes to pick out one garment, identify it and fold it. Some garments will take longer.

The folded laundry is placed onto one of several shelves that are about halfway up the Laundroid machine.

In fact, so novel is the robotics inside Laundroid that its maker, Tokyo-based Seven Dreamers, is keeping the technology close to its chest. It hasn't provided a glimpse inside the machine to see how the robot manipulates clothes.

But that will change next year, when the first machines are made available to the public.

Pre-orders for Laundroid will begin in March 2017 and be restricted to Japan only. The first units will be delivered later in the year and wider availability of a commercial version is planned for 2018, said Shin Sakane, president and CEO of Seven Dreamers, in an interview with IDG News Service.

He said that while initial sales will be concentrated on Japan, the company expects to sell a limited number in the U.S. A price has not been announced.

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