An Israeli-led Silicon-Valley-bred consumer-oriented robotics startup is taking the market by storm, with the introduction of a previously nonexistent appliance stretching the limit of product design and promising to unload one pesky task off the average Joe's to-do list: folding laundry.
Meet FoldiMate: The brainchild of long-term Israeli product and software executive Gal Rozov, self-described as "a 21st century lifestyle evangelist." Rozov, along with his development team, seeks to simplify household chores through robotics and technology. The FoldiMate, in development since 2011, is the first materialized vision of the silicon-based startup, and has yet to launch to market.
But demand is already steadily growing.
Nearly 58,000 people have registered on the company's site - live for less than a month - and are eagerly tracking the go-to-market process of a product which will only be available for pre-order in 2017, with first shipments expected in 2018.
So what exactly is the hype about? FoldiMate automates the laundry-folding process by bringing a robotic appliance into your already busy laundry room. Rozov and his team hope to introduce a new standard in household appliances with the launch of the product, which takes 10 seconds to fold, and an additional 20-30 to de-wrinkle each item via a steam function.
But the process is not effortless. And it has its limits. Consumers are required to clip clothing items onto a machine, and not simply toss them in as they would with a washer or dryer. And, at this point, the FoldiMate is built to process standard sized articles of clothing exclusively. Small items like undergarments, and larger items such as sheets or towels, must still be folded by hand.
There seems to be no limit to innovation today. Yet in an age of information overload, consumers draw a fine line between novelty technologies (in the form of upgrades to existing technologies) and the impactful - those which save time and penetrate neglected market niches. They want to cut back time spent on menial daily chores and are excited by smart and advanced sensor technologies which allow them to do so.
A 2014 study conducted by Whirlpool found that consumers, on average, spend 11 hours per week on mundane household chores; Nearly all of them (95% of consumers), sought improved efficiency in appliances. Questioned about potential innovations, 46% expressed interest in an appliance with laundry-folding capabilities.
The Whirlpool study may be two years old, but its results hold true. Consumers still seek efficiency in the household, and FoldiMate provides a partial solution.
The FoldiMate won't come cheap, though. Expected to retail at $750-$850, the appliance becomes more of a luxury than a household necessity.