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UC Berkeley researchers have created an AI robot that can fold laundry in record time. Discover his video demonstration, and how this invention could simplify everyday life.

Folding laundry is no picnic. Thanks to AUTOLAB researchers at UC Berkeley, this chore may soon be a thing of the past.

The team has developed a robotic method for folding clothes called SpeedFolding, and has just broken the speed record. Using computer vision technology, a neural network called the BiManual Manipulation Network (BiMaMa-Net), and a pair of robot industrial armsthe system can fold 30-40 randomly arranged garments in one hour.

It’s necessary about two minutes to SpeedFolding to fold a garment. This may seem long compared to a human, but previous methods only achieved 3 to 6 bends per hour. the record has been broken.

One of the first two-arm bending robots

As scientists, researchers have tackled the problem of folding laundry in a very technical way. According to them, “ Reliably and efficiently folding clothes is a long-standing challenge for robotic manipulation, due to the complex dynamics and high-dimensional configuration space of clothes “.

For simplicity, clothes wrinkle easily and can be scattered throughout the room. That’s why the researchers created a two-arm system capable of ironing a garment and then folding it.

Previously, previous robotic laundry folding methods mainly used one arm. This explains the huge speed increase offered by SpeedFolding.

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A neural network trained on 4000 examples

In addition, the BiMaMa-Net neural network has learned to fold laundry after studying 4300 examples. These were both human demonstrations and machine-assisted bends.

Now, the industrial robot associated with this AI can fold clothes from a random initial position in less than 120 seconds with a success rate of 93%.

Additionally, SpeedFolding can apply what it learns to clothing different materials, shapes or colors than the clothes on which he was trained.

The system start by examining the initial state clothing, using a camera. He calculates how to catch it with his two arms, to reach the next stage of the folding process.

The price to pay for no longer taking care of the laundry

The industrial robot used for this project is an ABB YuMi with grippersextended by a small 3D printed tooth to improve its grip. A such a machine costs about 58,000 dollars.

Therefore, this robotic system is not likely to invite itself into all homes. We’re going to have to keep taking care of our chores for a few more years…

However, in the long term, this technique could finding its place in domestic robotics. Before long, robots will be marketed to the general public and will be able to apply this method.

For now, as potential applications for this technology, the team of scientists mentions textile manufacturing, logistics, industrial laundries, healthcare and hospitality.

The researchers who participated in this project are Yahav Avigal, Tamim Asfour, Torsten Kröger and Ken Goldberg from UC Berkeley, and Lars Berscheid from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. They will be showcasing SpeedFolding at IROS2022, which will be held next week in Kyoto.

And you what do you think ? Are you interested in household robots? What are the possible applications for such technology?

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