Robot folds laundry

UC Berkeley Ph.D. student Jeremy Maitin-Shepard, working with Prof. Pieter Abbeel, has developed software that enables a robot to fold towels. From the abstract to their scientific paper:
The robot begins by picking up a randomly dropped towel from a table, goes through a sequence of vision-based re-grasps and manipulations-- partially in the air, partially on the table--and finally stacks the folded towel in a target location. The reliability and robustness of our algorithm enables for the first time a robot with general purpose manipulators to reliably and fully-autonomously fold previously unseen towels, demonstrating success on all 50 out of 50 single-towel trials as well as on a pile of 5 towels.
"Cloth Grasp Point Detection based on Multiple-View Geometric Cues with Application to Robotic Towel Folding" (Thanks, Ken Goldberg!)


  1. If I bought my wife a folding robot, my wife would still complain that it wasn’t folding them CORRECTLY! (thirds first, then halfs)

    That’s why I let HER fold towels in our house.

  2. April fools!
    Clue, it’s stop motion photo.
    Hilarious watching the robot decide how to fold it.

  3. It is all good until you realize that he is planning on picking you up by the neck and folding your spleen in half.

  4. I for one welcome our towel folding over lords. Even if it takes them 20 minutes to fold a single towel.

  5. Yes, the baby had on a clean diaper before I sent the laundry bot off to tidy the nursery. Why do you ask?

  6. Sure they’re happy to fold towels now, but give them 50-60 years and they’ll want equal rights, voting privileges, birth control, pants, shoes, etc.

    1. The leopard print was probably used to test the ability to deal with complex patterns without any problems.

    1. #16 FTW!

      Not a 4/1 gag, though. Per the team’s paper the average total duration per towel was 1478 seconds (about 25 minutes) so you can see why they went the timelapse video route.

  7. Impressive, even if it does take it forever. Just think, if they can improve the speed and get the costs down this could also end the fast food jobs as well as any other low skill labor job. Give it 10-20 years and these will dominate the current low wage jobs.

  8. It’s Rosie!

    It’s amazing how anthropomorphic she gets after a minute or so, at least to me. The quizzical way she holds up a new towel — now what the hell am I going to do with this one? Is this really a towel? How about on the back? — is priceless.

    1. I see that also. If it were folding undies it would seem a bit too much scrutiny. Just like mom used to do…

  9. If they figured out how to make it pair up socks and hang up dress shirts I would drop $500 on this immediately. I haaaate doing laundry.

  10. Brilliant! Now give it a pair of trousers, at tie and a bra, in that order, and sent it around here on a Sunday. PS, the bra is not mine.

  11. Now THAT is pretty impressive. Considering that my wife can’t fold towels.

    Although I bet it is pretty tedious to watch at real-time speed (it looks sped up.)

  12. Watching a robot do such a familiar task so painstakingly makes me realise how amazing human beings are.

  13. April fools! I love how the drapes move in the back ground as if they were stop animated. Amazing technology, that robot. It must run on pneumatics.

  14. I guess that’s a good thing. It would give my wife more time making sandwiches and getting beer for me.

  15. Sorry! Still cannot distinguish between large boxer shorts and small towels.

    Useless! Useless!

  16. How many towels did it take to learn the table trick, though? Was colliding the towel with the table to make a fold part of the process from the start or did it learn it?

  17. Can we program it to gossip in cockney as well? I always wanted a Victorian-era scullery maid.

  18. This is awesome.

    Definitely not April fools prank. The header notes it was presented at IRCA 2010 which is a major IEEE robotics conference. The title notes the video is spend up 50 (!) times so it is actually taking the better part an hour to do it — I wonder what the bottleneck to doing it faster is?

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