Just like the Jetsons, professor designs Robot to do chores

(NBC) - Opening a door. It seems simple right? But when a robot does it, it's downright cool. And when a similar robot folds laundry, that's downright amazing.

Never mind the fact it took 25 minutes to fold a towel. You know how fast technology changes. In a few years, the same robot will do it in a matter of seconds.

The robots, called PR2s, are created at the Menlo-based company Willow Garage, which then works with developers who design software to make the robots complete a task.

"So the same way people write apps for the iPhone, people can write apps for the robot and everyone wants the robot to do something different," said Eric Berger, the co-director of Willow Garage's Personal Robotics Program.

Willow Garage has worked with UC Berkeley doctoral student Jeremy Maitin-Shepard and UC Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences assistant professor Pieter Abbeel in creating software that enables the PR2s to become towel-folding robots.

"These tests are much harder for robots, and this is one example of that being accomplished," Maitin-Shepard said.

The goal is to create robots that could do a whole host of household chores as well as make your life easier in the workplace.

"The hope is that when you have one of these someplace, you can program it to do many different tasks and so it can change every aspect of your home life, your work life, where ever it is that people are applying it," Berger said.

The first batch of robots will be sent to research labs and universities. The rest of us will have to wait at least five years. By then, the robots will be folding your towels, matching your socks, and ironing your shirts.

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