Ironing Robot May Fulfill Russian Science Fiction Dreams

Columbia University researchers have spent the last three years building a machine-learning robot that can iron clothes.


(Ironing robot video)

The ironing robot picks up a piece of clothing and rotates it 360 degrees to expose it to a Microsoft Xbox Kinect sensor that digitally reconstructs the item.

The ironing robot fuses two types of surface scans to get the wrinkles out. A curvature scan estimates the height deviation of the cloth surface, while a discontinuity scan can detect sharp surface features, such as wrinkles. The machine-learning robot then uses this information to detect the areas on the clothing that need to be ironed.

“Robotic ironing is a very challenging task,” said Yinxiao Li, lead author on a paper set to be published at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics. Li admits that an ironing robot is still too slow and costly to be practical, but he said the robot’s ability to handle floppy, unpredictable objects has lots of applications outside the laundry room.

Russian science fiction author Mikhail Mikheev also encountered some problems on the way to creating a (fictional) ironing robot. In his 1972 short story "Утюг" (pronounced "ootyug") or "Iron", future Russians use natural plant fibers to recreate what their "прабабушки" (great-grandmothers) wore.

But, there was a problem. Unlike future clothing, the vintage clothing wrinkled and somehow needed to be smoothed. How could this be accomplished? Better call "Бытовых Автоматов" - Household Automata to create an ironing robot!

New clothes had to be protected, periodically clean, wash and dry. Build special base washing and cleaning proved unsustainable, and offered to set up production plants portable washing machines. But after washing and drying clothes had to be smooth - free from fine lines and wrinkles ...

Here plant Household Automata and received an urgent task to develop and set up production units of BTR - "бытовые тканевые разглаживатели " (a household fabric smoother).

Senior designer Rodia Semenova submits one design after another; the incredible progress of Russian science causes each to be labeled as insufficiently modern. First, the heating element is replaced by "microgenerators"; then, the microgenerators are discarded in favor of elements of colliding isotopes!

Eventually (*spoiler alert!) it appears that his tough old grandmother had the solution all along - and it was made of cast iron.

Sorry, roboticists.

Via RoboticsTrends.

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