For every problem, someone is trying to sell a solution. No matter is too trivial to be monetized, even folding laundry.
FoldiMate, a California-based startup, plans to sell a robot costing between $700 and $850 whose primary purpose is to fold your freshly laundered shirts and pants twice as fast as you could do it yourself. It can also “de-wrinkle” them with steam, and “perfume” them as it goes. It’s a pricey answer to a routine chore, yet folding laundry is evidently so odious that the FoldiMate is attracting serious attention, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The company, which includes several engineers with robotics experience, says next year it will take pre-orders, and it expects the first units to ship in 2018. About 50,000 people as of this writing have registered to be notified when pre-orders begin, though that doesn’t offer a clear indication of how many will actually purchase it.
A commercial version has been available since 2014, according to The Telegraph. The UK newspaper polled readers on whether they would pay £600 to never fold laundry again. Currently, 84% of respondents selected the response, “Shut up and take my money.” Just 16% went with, “What a ridiculous waste.”
The FoldiMate’s purpose, price tag, and drawbacks have elicited some sarcastic reviews. “Lazy people, rejoice,” reads the headline of a piece from Reviewed.com, which said it wasn’t convinced the “first-world time saver” was worth the asking price. The FoldiMate can’t handle underwear or oversized items, such as bed sheets, and items to be folded need to be clipped on one-by-one. All were among the “many reasons”not to buy it, according to TheNextWeb.
“Even though some people might find it superfluous, for families it could make the difference between wasting an entire day doing laundry and actually getting to go outside and play with their children,” FoldiMate said in a statement. “New technology is seldom embraced right away—there are always critics who deem it unnecessary. At one point, people thought dishwashers, washers and dryers were all too expensive, yet today they are standard home appliances.”
FoldiMate may illustrate the obsession among startups to find a technological improvement for everything, a mission that’s spawned a range of “smart” products, such as cups and diaper bags that just tell you what’s inside them.
Yet some people do find folding laundry so tedious that they would spend almost $1,000 on a machine to do it for them. One person at Quartz said, “omg i would buy that thing.” Another replied that it was “obviously genius.”
FoldiMate isn’t the only player in the high-tech folding space. Laundroid, by Japan-based company Seven Dreamers, is a folding machine about the size of a refrigerator, and unlike FoldiMate, you just dump your clothes in it. It takes several hours, but it will do most of it, though socks give it a hard time. No price or release date has yet been announced for the sale of Laundroid.
This story was updated with FoldiMate’s comments.