Jibo: Your Family’s First Robotic Companion

My following article below was originally published by SERIOUS WONDER:

Jibo

Mrs. Weston glanced at her husband for help, but he merely shuffled his feet morosely and did not withdraw his ardent stare from the heavens, so she bent to the task of consolation, “Why do you cry, Gloria? Robbie was only a machine, just a nasty old machine. He wasn’t alive at all.”

“He was not no machine!” screamed Gloria, fiercely and ungrammatically. “He was a person just like you and me and he was my friend. I want him back. Oh, Mamma, I want him back.” – Isaac Asimov, I, Robot, “Robbie”

As a child I remember waking up every morning before school and sitting down in front of the TV to watch my favorite shows. Those shows consisted of several different titles – Scooby Doo, Pokemon, Bill Nye the Science Guy, The Magic School Bus, etc. One show in particular, however, caught my eyes the most: The Jetsons! The futuristic scenarios that were involved throughout the series were practically eye candy for my youthful mind, making me wonder, “When will I get my own Rosie? Or my own R.U.D.I.?”

Both Rosie and R.U.D.I. were practically part of the family, becoming faithful companions to the quirky, but loving Jetsons. They weren’t merely “nasty old machines,” as Mrs. Weston exclaims in Asimov’s robot tales, but equally respected loved ones. Thanks to Prof. Cynthia Breazeal, a roboticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), she has now successfully designed the first ever family-friendly robotic companion for everyone to love and enjoy – Jibo!

Jibo with Cynthia

“Jibo fits in like family. Jibo is part of the family. Jibo’s warm. Jibo’s friendly. Jibo knows me and responds to me. So people will really resonate with the fact that it’s a family robot.” – Cynthia Breazeal, MIT

Jibo gif

Jibo is, first and foremost, a social robot. Like that of the iOS Siri, Jibo will keep you constantly updated on your day-to-day activities, alert you when someone’s contacting you, and provide friendly spoken factoids when asked questions. The difference between Jibo and Siri, however, is that Jibo is able to move around (somewhat), is able to locate you and differentiate you from others through its impressive tracking software, and can interact with you like you normally would with a human being.

Its tracking system is made up of two high-res cameras, allowing it to track you in real-time, and even provide unique methods of photo capturing and video calling when asked. Jibo is able to understand you through its natural language processing, which is complimented by 360 degree microphones. Most importantly, however, is that its artificial intelligence is adaptable, meaning what it learns via its daily interactions with you and the family, Jibo won’t forget.

If none of Jibo’s specs impress you enough to believe it to be the real thing, perhaps its overwhelming success in crowdfunding will. Jibo was recently launched into a crowdfunding campaign using Indiegogo. Merely 4 hours in, they reached their $100,000 funding goal. With 25 days left in the campaign, and with over 2,000 supporters thus far, they’ve already achieved over $960,000 in funding as of writing this!

For just $499, you can pre-order your own Jibo today.

FUTURE IMPLICATIONS

Like Rosie and R.U.D.I. from The Jetsons, Jibo will make quite a social impact on the family dynamic. As our relationship builds and becomes stronger over time with our robotic companions, we may even soon witness a movement of people – of families – demanding legal protections of said companions. Jibo is merely the beginning, however, and soon enough they’ll be walking side by side with us, living as we live.

“We are already disposed towards forming unidirectional emotional relationships with the robotic companions available to us today, and we can only imagine what the technological developments of the next decade will be able to effect.” – Kate Darling, PhD., MIT Robot Ethicist

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