Episode 715: The Sewing Robot : Planet Money Building a robot that can sew even simple clothes is surprisingly hard. A retired professor in Atlanta thinks he's solved the problem. It could bring clothing manufacturing back to America.
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Episode 715: The Sewing Robot

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Episode 715: The Sewing Robot

Episode 715: The Sewing Robot

Episode 715: The Sewing Robot

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/488611449/488611984" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Courtesy Softwear Automation
No human required.
Courtesy Softwear Automation

Robots can build cars. They can vacuum your house. Robots can even write news articles. But getting a robot to sew clothes has proven surprisingly difficult. It is a task that is still done almost entirely by people sitting at sewing machines—pretty much how it has worked for decades and decades. Building a sewing robot is something of a frontier for automation. If it could happen, clothes manufacturing could come back to America, clothes could be cheaper, and millions and millions of people—mostly women in poor countries— could lose their jobs.

Today on the show, we hear from the retired professor who thinks he's solved the problem of the sewing robot with his company, SoftWear. We ask what it means for the future of manufacturing here and abroad. Also, why the military is paying for the research behind it.

For more on automation and the future of work, listen to these previous episodes:

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