It’s a household chore most of us would rather not be bothered with: folding laundry. Thanks to the tech wizards at Seven Dreamers Laboratories in Tokyo, the end of that daily (or not-so-daily) task could be near. Seven Dreamers plans to release Laundroid, the world’s first laundry-folding robot, later this year.
The idea may seem far-fetched at first. But thinking about the progression of the laundry machine and the clothes dryer, it makes a lot of sense that this invention would come about. It’s the next logical step in the process.
The Laundroid has a lot going on inside besides robotics, it’s also utilizing analytics and A.I. to be able to sort laundry based on item type or owner. A simple set up procedure will allow the laundry to be able to distinguish between family members clothing and sort accordingly.
The closet-like Laundroid is the newest innovation in household chores
While initially the Laundroid will be a luxury item, the plan is to lower production costs and bring the closet-sized box within the price range of general consumers. In a few years time, the machine could be ubiquitous as the washer and dryer.
We sat down with Shin Sakane, President & CEO of Seven Dreamers Laboratories, during Slush Tokyo to ask him about the development of this new product and how he sees robotics lending a hand in the households of the future.
Shin Sakane, President & CEO of Seven Dreamers talks about Laundroid
We’re here with Shin Sakane, CEO and Founder of Seven Dreamers Laboratories. You’re company is developing the laundry-folding robot, Laundroid. Can you explain the origins of that product?
Back in 2005, I asked my wife, do you have something in your mind, something that you want to have which is not available anywhere in the world? Something to use at home. And something that seems to be very, very difficult to develop. At that time, I was looking for a theme for innovation. And that was a question that I asked to my wife, and she immediately answered, ‘I want to have a laundry-folding robot.’
The Laundroid is for everyday activities and tasks, so do you see robotics taking over those kinds of areas?
Yeah, there are a lot of household works and everyday work that people are still doing by hand. Robotics technologies can replace many of those troublesome works, which will liberate people from housekeeping work.
Laundroid as a wall unit in a study
Someone asked in your Q&A about the price and how it’s going to be a high-end product initially. How is it going to be able to come to general consumers?
Initially, back in 2005, when we started this technology development our goal was to be able to lower the production cost so that people can afford it for the future. The design concept for the mechanics was very, very simple. It has to be simple. It’s a big box right now, and it’s still expensive, just because of the limited production volume and everything is new. It’s the world’s first product, but once we mass produce, it’s a very simple mechanism so we believe that we can make a low production cost. And then once that happens, initially the rich households will purchase. And then they find that it’s very convenient. And then after that other people will start to purchase and try to bring this technology to everyone in the world.
On stage introducing Laundroid
Where have you seen the best reactions to the Laundroid? Has it been in Japan or have other countries been equally as positive?
I only compare the reactions of the Japan, U.S., and China, but it seems to be very similar. There are of course differences in cultures, but everyone… well, I won’t say everyone–a lot of people in each country hate folding laundry. And each country has a different problem, so in Japan houses are small, so the Laundroid is a little too big so where they place it is a problem. In the U.S. homes are bigger, but they have maids, so there is a slight difference in each culture. But the base is a lot of people hate folding laundry, and then this is something that they wanted to have. So we found it’s a very similar reaction.
Laundroid taking the place of a closet in a bedroom
About robotics in general, do you think Japan has an easier time accepting robots? For example, the Softbank robot. I had read a story that they had introduced a similar product in a supermarket in the U.S. and people were very reticent to talk to it and they didn’t want to interact. But in Japan, it’s very common.
Yeah, so in terms of general robotics, I think it’s true. In Japan we have comics and anime. We love watching robot anime and we are so used to seeing that kind of story. Japan has a traditionally very strong industrial robot arm, so we are very much used to it. But our Laundroid is not a human-type robot. It’s actually a box, which has multiple robot arms inside, so it’s a little bit of a different story.
It’s almost along the lines of a washing machine or drying machine. It just seems like the next step in the task.
So this was an idea that came about from your wife, but as for you, what is a robot that you would like to see introduced into the world?
Well, our company, Seven Dreamers Labs, what we really want to do is make innovations. Like real innovations. So we want to challenge something that people couldn’t achieve and have never done before. Laundroid was the theme back in 2005 that no one was doing and still no one is able to do. So there are two more projects that are ongoing. It’s still confidential, but they are new things that we are challenging and it’s still very exciting.