Laundroid, the laundry-folding robot of our dreams, is slightly ominous in real life

A hulking, evil black monolith? No, it's actually just a robot that's come to eliminate one of the most tedious chores known to mankind.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
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Watch this: Laundroid robot folds clothes... and undies
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A perfectly folded shirt comes out of Laundroid. Tim Stevens/CNET

TOKYO -- No, that glowing door you see there isn't some portal to an unknown dimension or etherial plane. It's actually part of a robot designed to be built into the closet of the future. The whole contraption is called Laundroid and it exists to make the very pedestrian task of folding laundry a whole lot easier.

The product of a partnership between Seven Dreamers Laboratories, Panasonic and Daiwa House (Japan's largest homebuilder), Laundroid is something of an ongoing research product making its debut at this year's CEATEC consumer electronics show in Tokyo.

The demonstration involves taking a white shirt and tossing it loosely into an automated opening in the center of Laundroid. At that point, the door closes and the magic happens. At least, we were led to believe that the magic happens, because all you can see is a pulsing black door. Approximately 5 minutes later, the door opens again and out pops a perfectly folded shirt.

Laundroid is tall, dark and functional (pictures)

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Yes, that is a very, very long time to fold a simple T-shirt, but the idea is you could dump all of your laundry into a machine like this and, eventually, have it appear directly in your drawers, neatly organized, with zero intervention from you.

How much would you pay for a robot that can fold like this? Tim Stevens/CNET

In fact, the company has a roadmap stretching to 2020, in which it envisions a system fully integrated with your home. You would dump dirty laundry into any of a number of chutes and, eventually, those clothes would magically reappear in the appropriate closet.

A simpler, folding-only version of Laundroid is said to launch in 2016 for some undisclosed but surely substantial cost. The marketing team behind Seven Dreamers estimates that people spend an average of 9,000 hours in their lives folding laundry. That's 375 days worth of work, with the implication being: What would you spend for an extra year of life?

Laundroid is just a very limited demo at this point, and one that could have been easily faked. But, product planners assured us that it's all very real, that the clothes were indeed folded by robot arms hiding somewhere inside the cabinet.

It's clear that there's been a major investment to make all of this happen. Will it pay off? You can be sure we'll be watching this space closely.