Glenn Reid spent six years working for Steve Jobs — first, a year at Jobs’ startup NeXt, and then from 1998 to 2003 at Apple, where he developed the first versions of iPhoto and iMovie.
Now with his new startup, Marathon Laundry, Reid says he’s “sprinkling Silicon Valley magic dust” onto a problem close to home with a very Apple-like approach: Dirty clothes.
No, seriously. With its forthcoming Marathon Internet-connected combination washer/dryer, Reid boasts that Marathon Laundry could do for the act of washing clothes what Tesla did for the electric car.
Better yet, it’s not going to command a Tesla price when it ships later this year, carrying a cost of $1,199 — competitive with most decent traditional laundry appliances.
First off, the mere concept of a combination washer/dryer is extremely appealing to me especially as a new homeowner. As Reid notes, it’s been done before, mainly in Europe, but they’re not terribly efficient. In fact, he says, they kind of “suck.” That’s where his Apple background kicks in.
“At Apple one of our buzzwords was ‘make it not suck,'”Reid says.
That’s where the second part comes in. Because it connects to the Internet, the Marathon 1.0 can reap tremendous amounts of data from each individual user.
It means that just as Tesla collects data from the cars it sells to improve its “Autopilot” self-driving mode, Marathon’s laundry systems will learn more and more over time how to wash your clothes, without your needing to fiddle with the often too-complicated controls of a washing machine.
Indeed, Reid says that there’s really no reason for a washing machine to have as many controls as it does, since “there’s really only two things they do: water temperature and time.”
Reid says that he can imagine the late Steve Jobs looking at a washing machine, going over the interface with a fine-tooth comb, ultimately finding it too confusing.
“[Jobs] would say ‘isn’t there some perfect temperature?,” Reid says.
With the Marathon washer/dryer, the goal is to collect enough data to figure out that one perfect temperature that works for 90% of laundry loads, the same way that the Apple design aesthetic is just perfect for the vast majority of users.
From there, you can start thinking about all kinds of science-fictional stuff. For instance, a Marathon spokesperson says that it’s not out of the question that one day, the machine could identify the stains on your clothes and automatically apply the best treatment.
Just don’t call it artificial intelligence.
“It’s artificial intelligence, but nobody likes artificial stuff anymore,” Reid says.