Robots doing things people can isn't new. Robots doing things people can while being absolutely cute? That's something else.
Just two days after its crowdfunding campaign was launched on Indiegogo, Jibo was able to raise 681% of its $100,000 goal, getting more than $680,000 with 28 days left into the campaign. The robot was created by a team headed by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, a media arts and science associate professor in MIT Media Lab's.
"Jibo is a very different concept of a personal robot where the focus is on human engagement and bringing content, apps, services 'to life' beyond flat screens. Most of robotics views robots as a labor technology rather than a technology for human engagement and empowerment around family," explains Breazeal.
In a video for Jibo's crowdfunding campaign, the robot is shown reading and animating stories to a little girl, letting a mom busy baking she's got a message, and taking photos of the family when instructed verbally. It is also touted to be capable of relaying voice messages and ordering food delivery based on user preferences.
But successful as it may be with its crowdfunding efforts, Jibo is not without its skeptics. "People are almost endlessly adaptable. So why would they want or need a human-stylized personal assistant at home to tell them their smartphone is ringing? For decades, human-resembling robots have been great fodder for science fiction, movies and TV, but their attractiveness beyond those venues seems limited," argues Charles King, Pund-IT principal.
Though it is considered to be the world's first family robot, Jibo is also not the only robot entering the scene next year. SoftBank announced last month that the 48-inch tall emotion-sensing robot Pepper will go on sale next February in Japan, though it is unclear if the robot will be making its rounds overseas, and there's also Asimo, the walking-talking robot from Honda. In terms of social robotics, the concept that guided the creation of Jibo, the most popular robot in the field at the moment would have to be Leonardo, a 2.5-foot furry robot. Brezeal is also responsible for Leonardo, collaborating with Stan Winston Studio's special effects experts to create the robot.
Aside from Breazeal, the team behind Jibo includes: Steve Chambers, Andy Atkins, Dr. Todd Pack, Jeri Asher, Dr. Roberto Pieraccini, Rich Sadowsky, Fardad Faridi, Jonathan Ross, and Dr. Maxim Makatchev. Charles River Ventures; Osage University Partners; Generator Ventures; Fairhaven Capital Partners L.P.; Riverside Investors, LLC; The Carol Family Trust; Pags Group; and the Jeff and Diane Shepard Family Trust are listed as investors.