PhotoIf there was one robot that would be worth his weight in metal it would have to be one that could do your laundry. If it could fold all the better.

Scientists are close, but need to make a few adjustments or the whites won't get separated from the darks. It is tough to get a robot to do this mundane task and not just because they don't like it.

Programming a robot to do the laundry represents a challenging planning problem because current sensing and manipulation technology is simply not good enough to identify precisely the number of clothing pieces that are in a pile and the number that are picked up with each grasp.

Dream robots or helper robots as they are called are supposed to be able to clear the table, do laundry or perform day-to-day tasks with ease. It's the computing to get them to do these things that poses the real challenge.The issue arises when there's uncertainty in how much laundry soap or how many items to clear off of the table. 

As humans we can solve problems without really thinking too much about it, at least as far as doing laundry. The problems of the world are a different story. Who knows though, we may have a robot president someday. 

Don't think too much

"The main issue is how to develop what is called 'generalized plans,' and these are plans that don't just work in a particular situation that is very well defined and gets you to a particular goal that is also well defined, but rather ones that work on a whole range of situations and you may not even know certain things about it," said Shlomo Zilberstein of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has been working on the problem. 

He and other researchers focused on human behavior and how pulling, stuffing and folding laundry is pretty much an unconscious act. They tried to map these repetative actions and create a template for the robots.

The end result is a robot that can do the laundry with a few exceptions. For example, it doesn't yet know how many and what type of clothes need to be washed. For the most part, though, robots do laundry as well as a college student.

For now it looks like we are going to have to continue to fold and pile and just patiently wait until we are replaced, or until you have programmed your children to do it correctly.

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