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

Enlarge / An ABB industrial robot folding a shirt utilizing AUTOLAB’s new “SpeedFolding” technique.


While it is attainable that somebody on the market enjoys folding garments, it is most likely not a beloved pastime. Accordingly, researchers at UC Berkeley’s AUTOLAB have developed a brand new robotic technique of folding clothes at record speed (for a robot) known as SpeedFolding.

Using machine imaginative and prescient, a neural community known as BiManual Manipulation Network (BiMaMa-Net), and a pair of industrial robot arms, SpeedFolding can fold 30–40 randomly positioned clothes per hour, normally ending every inside two minutes.

While that fee doesn’t sound spectacular in comparison with a human, earlier robotic garment-folding strategies reached solely “3-6 FPH” (that is “folds per hour”) in keeping with the researchers in a paper submitted for presentation at IROS2022 subsequent 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.

Speed achievement apart, the paper is price a learn to get pleasure from how the researchers describe the garment-folding drawback in technical phrases. “Folding garments reliably and efficiently is a long-standing challenge in robotic manipulation,” they write, on account of “complex dynamics” and the “high dimensional configuration space of garments.” In different phrases, garments wrinkle up simply, and they are often throughout the place. In response, they’ve provide you with a “bimanual system” (utilizing two fingers) that may clean out a crumpled garment, then fold it alongside most popular folding traces given by the researchers.


An instance of an industrial robot utilizing the SpeedFolding method.

Previous robotic garment-folding strategies have “mainly focused on single-arm manipulation,” in keeping with the authors, which could account for the dramatic two-handed speed enhance of SpeedFolding.

The BiMaMa-Net neural community discovered its capability to fold clothes after finding out 4,300 human and machine-assisted examples, and the related industrial robot can fold garments from a random preliminary place in beneath 120 seconds (on common) with a hit fee of 93 %. Additionally, SpeedFolding can generalize (apply what it has discovered) to garments of a distinct materials, form, or colour than the garments it skilled with.

Basically, the system wants to look at the preliminary state of the garment (utilizing an overhead digital camera) and calculate the place to seize it with its two arms to get the garment to the subsequent desired step in the folding course of.

As far as the robot {hardware} itself, the researchers used an ABB YuMi industrial robot with gripper fingertips “extended by small 3D printed teeth to improve grasping.” A very similar-looking robot (the YuMI IRB 14000) prices $58,000, so desires of working SpeedFolding at residence are usually not at the moment inside the attain of a typical family. But the method may finally filter all the way down to family robotics.

For now, the paper’s authors point out “textile manufacturing and logistics, industrial and household laundry, healthcare, and hospitality” as potential functions for the expertise. For individuals who do not get pleasure from folding and sorting garments, it is possible that this facet of our potential future cannot get right here quickly sufficient.


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