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Tired of laundry folding? AI breaks the robot folding speed record

Enlarge / An ABB industrial robot folding a shirt using AUTOLAB’s new “SpeedFolding” method. (credit: UC Berkeley AUTOLAB)

While it’s possible that someone out there enjoys folding clothes, it’s probably not a beloved pastime. Accordingly, researchers at UC Berkeley’s AUTOLAB have developed a new robotic method of folding garments at record speed (for a robot) called SpeedFolding.

Using machine vision, a neural network called BiManual Manipulation Network (BiMaMa-Net), and a pair of industrial robot arms, SpeedFolding can fold 30–40 randomly positioned garments per hour, usually finishing each within two minutes.

While that rate does not sound impressive compared to a human, previous robotic garment-folding methods reached only “3-6 FPH” (that’s “folds per hour”) according to the researchers in a paper submitted for presentation at IROS2022 next week in Kyoto. It’s the work of Yahav Avigal, Tamim Asfour, Torsten Kröger, and Ken Goldberg of UC Berkeley and Lars Berscheid of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

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