Ironing sucks, but it’s the kind of precise activity that usually stumps robots. No longer, because a wonderful team of engineers has developed a robot that can smooth the creases right out of your most wrinkled pair of pants.
The team has published a paper on the arXiv server that describes a new robotic system to smooth cloth using a regular iron. Using two Xbox Kinects, the system scans the surface of whatever it needs to smooth then works out the best way to iron it. The team explains in its abstract:
We present a novel solution to analyse the cloth surface by fusing two surface scan techniques: a curvature scan and a discontinuity scan. The curvature scan can estimate the height deviation of the cloth surface, while the discontinuity scan can effectively detect sharp surface features, such as wrinkles. We use this information to detect the regions that need to be pulled and extended before ironing, and the other regions where we want to detect wrinkles and apply ironing to remove the wrinkles.
The team show that they can detect each and every wrinkle in a cloth, and then finally deploy... an iron, to actually put theory into practice. And it works! “Experimental results show that using our wrinkle analysis algorithm, our robot is able to iron the cloth surface and effectively remove the wrinkles,” write the team. Look at it go in that gif.
Now, it’s not perfect: It’s relatively slow compared to the human hand and then there’s the whole matter of neatly moving the garment on the board that’s yet to be considered. As the team writes, “robotic ironing is a very challenging task”—but they’re doing a damn good job so far.