It’s called Jibo and, despite being a robot without a human morphology, it has seduced internauts to such an extent that the eponymous company which makes it has had to suspend orders temporarily so it can catch up with the demand to date.
Jibo is the result of a successful crowdfunding campaign. Now finished, it collected 2.5 million dollars on Indiegogo, a sum which exceeded all the creators’ expectations. The design team includes Cynthia Breazeal, a pioneer in robotics and professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Endowed with artificial intelligence, the robot is designed to form part of our family environment, help with daily chores and act as a personal assistant. It even wants to endear itself to us. (See video below.)
What Can the Robot Do for Us?
Jibo is a robot designed to recognise and distinguish between the voices, faces and individual tastes of different family members. It can hold conversations (differentiating between when we are addressing it directly and when we are talking to other people) and perform tasks for us. It can read our e-mails and send voice messages, remind us of meetings and appointments in advance, serve as voicemail, and act as a webcam when we want to hold a videoconference. If we ask it to, it can detect us with its sensor and take photos or make videos of us, which it will then delete if it perceives a certain movement of our head or receives an order from the pertinent voice. It also recommends restaurants and can book tables for us; if we want to order take-out food, it knows our preferences and can place the order for us; it reads stories to children and has interactive apps for kids to play and learn; and it can manage domotics, or home automation, for example turning on specific lights when we come home. All of this is done in a very intuitive manner and the robot expresses itself through sound, image and movements, which humanise it to make it seem like another member of the family. It has a personality and feelings; it detects gestures of affection and responds by dancing or changing the eye on its touch screen to amusing animations, to name just a few of its possible manifestations.
The people who supported the crowdfunding project by donating the amount that Jibo costs (around 400 euros) will be among the lucky few to receive it in their home at the end of 2015. Those who contributed a lesser sum when they reserved their robot will receive it at the beginning of 2016 and pay the outstanding difference. As for the rest of us, we will have to wait until it goes on the market in February 2016. We have seen a great deal of progress in robotics and artificial intelligence, but we have to admit that the creators of Jibo have found the key to creating the first useful and endearing family robot.