Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he won’t have to pay anyone $1,000 to fish for him.
Does the same logic apply to folding your laundry? You bet it does. But that hasn’t stopped the launch of the FoldiMate, a $980 column of gears and levers designed to fold your clothes for you. The machine, which made its debut at CES and will be available for purchase later in the year, features a simple input-output system. Users feed it a foldable item fresh from the dryer, and the machine quickly produces a stack of uniformly folded towels, shirts, trousers and other stuff. All you have to do is put these items away.
The FoldiMate makes sense in a commercial environment. Otherwise, it’s just another totem of the tech world monetizing laziness.
But even when you leave aside the fact that it can’t handle socks, large bed linens or baby clothes, the FoldiMate immediately feels superfluous for most people. It’s the kind of innovation that maybe makes sense in a commercial environment — like a restaurant with a lot of napkins to manage or a fancier laundromat — or for a servantless parent with a lot of children’s clothing to wash and fold.
For everyone else, it’s just another totem of the tech world’s incessant monetization of a very specific bourgeois laziness. There are plenty of appliances that people with a little money rely upon to get household tasks done quickly and efficiently. A food processor, for example, is probably going to make better hummus and pie crust than most people can with their own two hands. But that innovation doesn’t fall victim to the law of diminishing returns in quite the same way that the FoldiMate does. You still have to, you know, do your laundry and smooth it out before the machine can step in to help. (For some items, like jeans and bigger towels, you do have to do at least one fold if you don’t want to gum up the works). And because it can’t quite take human involvement out of the equation, it’s hard to imagine recouping that $980 investment.
Which is why most people are better off spending that money on a series of cooking classes, or a watch. Or better yet, paying a human being to wash and fold your clothing for you.