Why robots still can't fold your laundry

Why robots still can't fold your laundry
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Folding laundry is simple for people but tough for robots.

No machine can yet match a human’s dexterity and problem-solving abilities when attacking a pile of irregular shaped clothes of different fabric types and weight. The difference between picking up a lace nightgown versus unraveling a pair of crumpled jeans knotted with other clothes is a calculation that requires massive computing power and a soft touch.

“We’re making progress,” said CSAIL Director Daniela Rus. She has built a robot arm with spongy skin that looks like an elephant’s trunk. It can encircle a variety of items and apply the proper pressure to pick them up.

“A soft appendage can adapt to the surface and grasp better,” Ms. Rus said.

Such physical abilities, dovetailed with advances in computing power, is opening the door to a new era in automation. A machine being developed for the military walks like a pack animal and is designed to carry heavy loads in battle. Another guides customers through store aisles to find items on a shopping list.

Read more at WSJ: http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-robots-still-cant-fold-your-laundry-1424835003