Picture a mannequin. Siemens has made an automated shirt-ironing device shaped like the chest and arms of a mannequin (see the picture here) that one places a shirt on. Then the mannequin inflates and applies hot steam to a shirt and that takes out the wrinkles. The price for sale in Germany, €1,000, in Euros probably translates into a price one or two hundred dollars above a thousand dollars when it reaches the US. (same article here)
The main objective of the Dressman robot is to dry and press shirts. On placing a damp shirt on the ironing figure, this dummy inflates with hot air in its interior, and thus puffs the shirt up, removing creases drying the garment (it has to be previously wet and undergone a spin-dry in a washing machine). The device has a heater box inside with a number of different resistance elements. While we are placing the shirt on it, this box stores up heat in such a way that, when the garment is positioned and we press the start button, the whole ironing dummy fills with hot air which presses and dries the shirt. Moreover, the device has an air filter which prevents dirt entering the ironing dummy.
Since it isn't really a mechanical device calling it a robot may seem to stretch the definition of robot. After all, a dishwashing machine automates a human task and yet we do not think of it as a robot. Still, it does something that many may have expected would require a more complex robot to perform.
Stressed-out homemakers can now take a break and leave the iron in the closet. A new product from Siemens called "dressman" will soon at least take over the chore of ironing shirts. An Emnid survey confirms something we already know from personal experience: Ironing is one of the household chores that people hate the most. It also eats into precious free time, for even experienced ironers need about eight minutes to press a shirt. This new ironing assistant promises to deliver perfectly ironed shirts in no time. In Germany Siemens sold about 4.000 units within a few months. Now the company starts to market the device in other countries. The equipment looks like the upper body of the mannequins you see in store windows. A freshly washed shirt is simply pulled over the device, and any wrinkles are smoothed out. Twelve fully automatic programs for various types of shirts and materials take care of the rest: The shell made of balloon silk literally inflates itself with hot air and gets the shirts into shape. And the process is easy on the shirts because it uses low temperatures. Broken buttons and unsightly stains will also become things of the past, and additional functions can dry wet jackets or air out sports coats. Up to now, such automatic ironing systems have been available only for professional cleaners and laundries. These use high pressure and are hard on the material as a result. They are also big and expensive. The dressman, which costs about €1,000, is not exactly inexpensive, but it works very economically. The operating costs amount to only five cents per shirt. By comparison, it costs about €2 at the cleaners — not including the cost of getting there. (IN 2004.02.6)
4,000 of these puppies have already been sold in Germany and from a press release date it appears it went on sale in February 2004 there. Are there any German readers who have one who can comment on how well they work? Siemens is starting to introduce this device in other countries. Anyone outside of Germany seen one for sale yet?
This leads to the obvious question: Is Siemens going to produce a Pantsman for ironing pants? One complication there is the crease that we expect pants to have ironed into them. Anyone have a home pants pressing machine?
Take home lesson? It is possible to automate additional common household tasks without waiting for the development of artificially intelligent robots.
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