Most of us take for granted the ability to handle chores like loading a washing machine and turning it on. For some people with disabilities, though, it's not so simple. Commercial laundry solutions company JTM Service in the UK hacked a washing machine in partnership with manufacturer Miele to create the Woof to Wash machine. The washer is designed to be used by assistance dogs.
Duffy, a 2-year-old golden Labrador, is the test pilot for the machine. The pooch is trained by Support Dogs, a charity organization that provides assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities. Duffy opens the washing machine door, loads it from a laundry basket, closes the door, and then barks to activate a voice sensor to turn the machine on.
"We developed this machine because mainstream products with complex digital controls seldom meet the needs of the disabled user," says John Middleton, the creator of the device. He hopes to place the machine in thousands of households to make life a little easier for people with challenges ranging from visual impairments to autism.
The machine is set to work on a single cycle and dispense the correct amount of detergent, making its operation very simple. The door is outfitted with a pull handle that fits a dog's mouth. The support dog is also trained to unload the machine once it is done.
Woof to Wash shows how a simple technical innovation can have a big impact on a person's daily life. JTM is also using it to promote a fundraising drive for Support Dogs. It costs nearly $50,000 to support a working dog for people with disabilities. Perhaps some day we'll get a dishwasher that is activated by a house cat's ennui.