Panasonic & partners to build laundry bot

Sounds like an object right out of a sci-fi movie but Seven Dreamers, CEO, Shin Sakane seems to have come up with the “perfect” solution to everyone’s weekend clothing chores.

Bloomberg has reported that the Japanese inventor received six billion yen (A$71 million) from partners, including Panasonic, last month to advance what was coined “the Laundroid” the robot that Sakane is developing to not only wash and dry garments, but also sort, fold and neatly arrange them. The refrigerator-size device could eventually fill the roles of washing machine, dryer and clothes drawer in people’s homes.

Sakane, who said that his inspiration was drawn from the 1968 Stanley Kubrick sci-fi classic “2001: A Space Odyssey”, had earlier inventions that include an anti-snoring device and golf clubs made of space materials. “That’s what we had in-mind: a technology that never existed on Earth descends from space,” Sakane told Bloomberg. “If we could automate this, the act of doing laundry will be gone for good.”

Sakane wouldn’t disclose how Laundroid works, but patents show that users dump clothes in a lower drawer and robotic arms grab each item as scanners look for features such as buttons or a collar. Once identified, the clothes are folded using sliding plates and neatly stacked on upper shelves for collection.

Each item takes about 10 minutes to fold, which Sakane attributed to the time necessary to scan each part of the clothing and communicate via Wi-Fi with a central server. He is working to get it down to three to five minutes, but said the robot was designed to be used passively while users are doing something else or out of the house.

“We decided that by combining Panasonic’s washing and drying machine technology and 7D’s folding technology, it is possible to bring an all-in-one product to the market early,” said Kyoko Ishii, a spokeswoman for Osaka-based Panasonic.

The goal is to eventually get the price of the full version to less than about 300,000 yen ($2,700). The model going on sale in March will probably cost significantly more due to higher initial production costs. Panasonic is slated to handle manufacturing.

Currently the funding brings total capital raised to 7.5 billion yen. Nomura Holdings Incorporated has been hired for an initial public offering in the “not too distant future.” Sakane has claimed that his Seven Dreamers Laboratories is currently valued at about 20 billion yen.

While the full product is slated for release in 2019, an early version that can only sort and fold clothing goes on sale worldwide in March, according to Sakane.