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 ï¬nally stacks the folded towel in a target location. The reliability and robustness of our algorithm enables for the ï¬rst 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!)
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.