At CES the world’s biggest tech companies come together to show off new products designed to make our lives easier. Most of what’s on display offers very little practical value: a robot that tells you what’s for dinner, cloud-connected sex toys, or refrigerators with their own web browser, to name a few. The tech we use most around the house—the dishwasher, laundry machine, microwave, etc.—has been around for ages and more or less performs the same basic function. In a way, it seems all our around-the-house problems have been solved.
And yet, somehow, no one has found a way to make folding clothes any less arduous. That’s about to change.
The FoldiMate was shown at CES 2017 and is making another appearance this year. I got a look at how the updated machine operates and came out with more skepticism than praise. The people demoing the product made it all look very simple.
As you can see in the video, clothing articles are clipped one-by-one into a horizontal slot on top of the device. Once the robotic mechanism senses the articles, it swiftly pulls them in like a vending machine eating a dollar bill. What happens after that is a bit of mystery (the company isn’t providing specifics on the folding process) but the clothes magically get spit out on the other end, perfectly folded like in a department store. At least, that’s what the company wants you to think. The load sitting at the bottom of the demo unit was just a mockup, a “here’s what would happen” if we ever get this thing figured out. The FoldiMate has gone through several iterations. This year’s version works quicker than last year’s but at the expense of anti-wrinkle and perfume features.
While the FoldiMate can fold T-shirts, blouses, and pants of various sizes along with towels and pillowcases, it won’t fold socks, so you’re stuck fighting half the battle on your own. The company claims it will fold an average load (20-30 articles of clothing) in just four minutes. That’s fast, but dependant on how quickly you can place each of your freshly cleaned clothes into the narrow slot—a monotonous task that undermines the convenience this device is meant to offer. Some of these annoyances would be much more easily overlooked if the FoldiMate didn’t have an estimated starting price of $980—the cost of a fancy washing machine or the best (and most expensive) smartphone on the market.
The device on display at CES is a concept of what the company hopes to ship in late 2019 so you’ve got some time to save up.