When it comes to robots, there are many who are excited about the possibilities they bring and others who are afraid of the future. No matter on what side you are, you need to hear about Jibo, a social robot that has already met its crowdfuding goal on IndieGoGo with almost a month left to go. At the time of writing this, the Jibo team has raised more than $560,000 from the initial $100,000 goal.
Jibo is basically a little pod with a motorized swivel, equipped with cameras, microphones and a display, being able of recognizing faces and voices. Think of it like Siri “with a body”, if I can say so. Jibo acts like a personal assistant that can set reminders, deliver messages and take group photos. Another really useful purpose that it serves is that of a telepresence robot for video chats.
Besides these features that are also possible with home automation and mobile devices, Jibo learns the preferences of the family members and adapts to them. This tiny robot is being described as a “member of the family” in the official video and that’s thanks to its natural social and emotive cues.
Jibo is also said to be a great learning tool for kids as it can read and tell stories and interact with them. Video chat becomes more natural with it since it’s able of showing the avatar of the interlocutor thanks to its see-and-track camera.
At the moment you can still claim a unit for $499, with an estimated December 2015 ship date but there are only a few spots open, so hurry up. The team behind Jibo is being leaded by Cynthia Breazeal, head of the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab.
However, not everybody seems to be enthusiastic over this device and here’s an interesting take from Time.com’s Jared Newman who says that home automation will eliminate the need for dedicated robots:
If home automation goes mainstream, a dedicated robot won’t be necessary, because our phones will do a better job of signaling when we’ve walked through the front door. The idea of having your messages read to you when you get home is a throwback to answering machines, which are obsolete now that we can check our messages from anywhere.
He then adds that Jibo could be used for specific situations and this doesn’t justify the $500 price:
There is something to be said for a device that can persistently listen for your commands and act on them, but this is the same problem that wearable devices are trying to solve, and they’re better-suited to being wherever you are. While group photos and telepresence are potentially useful, now we’re getting into some very specific situations that don’t really justify a $500 purchase, regardless of how endearing Jibo tries to be.
Just like Jared, I agree that if Jibo would be able to clean windows or cook dinner, then it would really have a wow factor to it. What makes Jibo special is the fact that it’s simply there and that’s what the video tries to suggest – a member of the family that responds to your commands and helps you out when needed.