A computer that sews! If it could cook I'd want to marry it.
The Brother Quattro 6700D is a $10,000 Rolls Royce of sewing and embroidery. We were given a demo at the ShowStoppers event at CES 2012 and, in spite of knowing nothing about sewing, were blown away by it.
We used an external digitizing tablet to draw a design. You can trace one from a piece of paper or draw free-form; the device can import images as well and has hundreds of built-in patterns. The one we drew was saved to a USB stick and then read off the stick by the main embroidery program.
The machine scans the material onto which the pattern will be embroidered and helps you to determine precise locations for the stitching. When it's all set, you press a button and it starts automatically embroidering a perfect representation of the design. The machine provides a total stitch count for the job and counts down so you know how long it will take.
In addition to embroidery the Quattro 6700D can automate and assist the user in performing sewing tasks such as hemming or sewing in a zipper. It includes pictures that show exactly how to do it.
The device is somewhat ironic in a sense; surely the point of embroidery for many is the pleasure of doing it yourself. But it's true that it takes time and it's hard to do well, and it would seem that there are a lot of people who prefer to do a good job this way.
This isn't a typical BYTE story, but it's a great example of how computers improve unobvious processes.