Ever since the word “robot” was coined from the Czech word Robota as a reference to forced labor, inventors have been trying to bring it to reality. Robots have become an essential component in factories, assembly lines, and other areas where repetitive and tough labor is needed. Their resilience has ensured their success and popularity not as slaves but as a super-productive replacement for their human counterparts.
Robots designed are yet to become an essential part of our home and everyday life, but that still hasn’t deterred companies from trying to develop the perfect home servant. After the success of Roomba as a robot vacuum cleaner, it was the turn of Seven Dreamers Laboratory to come up with a robot that, according to their claim, washed, dried, ironed and even folded laundry.
During their business lifetime, Seven Dreamers received $89 million in venture capital, partnered with Panasonic and Daiwa House Industries Corporation, and even premiered at the 2015 CEATEC consumer electronics show in Tokyo inevitably hyping up the launch of their Laundroid.
Robots have traditionally had a hard time breaking into domestic servitude. Today they can vacuum floors, mop tiles, and even mow the lawn successfully. However, when it comes to other tasks like home security or simple companionship, they have a long way to go despite major developments in emotionally intelligent robots.
Seven Dreamers made a lot of lofty promises about the capabilities of their Laundroid robot built to “save us” from one of our most mundane task routines: doing laundry. They lauded their image recognition, artificial intelligence, and dexterous handling mechanisms that enabled Laundroid to both fold and organize a pile of clean laundry.
In reality, it required the cleaned and dried laundry to be pre-prepped for folding. So users still needed to do at least part of the work rather than the collective image of expectation to be able to just open the dryer and toss clothing directly into the Laundroid and be greeted by freshly folded clothes. In any case, the $16,000 price tag could never be justified for such a machine.
What is interesting to note is that in 2019, the same year that Laundroid shut down, it was boldly promising that they could lower down the cost of this home robot to just $1000. However, by the time the company shut down, it was barely 5 years old and touted as a major failure with its ridiculous idea rather than a kickstart to the robotics revolution for personal home assistants.
The cause of failure can be simply stated as a failure of product strategy. The product that was launched was extremely expensive for the service that it provided and it simply could not match the human dexterity that a simple task like folding laundry required. I guess we all have to be doing our own laundry for the next foreseeable future after all.
It is interesting to note that Laundroid’s competitor, Foldimate, has a working prototype that can fold a shirt in 5 seconds. They also know that no one is going to buy the machine until they bring the price down (It is currently looking to enter the market priced at $980). However, clothes have to be fed into the machine one at a time. It will be very interesting to see which way it goes if it is ever released into the consumer market.