The Premise. The dream of a household robot is so alluring because it falls somewhere between faithful pet dog and trusty, capable butler. Now that homes are more readily equipped with Wi-fi and several connected smart home devices, the perfect environment exists in which to bring in a truly sophisticated but accessible home robot.
The Product. JIBO, a robot that looks like a cross between a desktop fan and EVE from the Pixar movie Wall-E, seems to be the first step in blending functionality with companionship. Sitting cheerfully wherever he is placed, JIBO will learn faces and voices as he interacts with people around the house. As he continues to learn and develop, JIBO will be able to interact with household devices and services like lighting, voicemail, and email. JIBO also functions as a digital camera capable of taking photos and video and even as a telepresence robot during video calls. JIBO developers can create for him like any other platform, offering a variety of apps and features in the future.
The Pitch. JIBO’s pitch video shows the friendly robot blending in and being a part of the family, helping set up steamy dates over Chinese takeout and playing with kids inside blanket forts. Movie buffs might be a little unsettled by the simulated “first-person” JIBO scenes, which seem oddly similar to scenes from Terminator, but the device seems functional and friendly enough for now. The development team behind JIBO needs to raise $100,000 to finish the internal design and testing of JIBO.
The Perks. A JIBO Robot along with the developer’s JIBOAlive Toolkit will cost backers $499, although the device won’t ship until February 2016. If that sounds like too long to wait, some charity will get one sent a little sooner. Those who pledge $799 will get a JIBO in December 2015 along with donating an identical unit to the Boston Children’s Hospital. Likewise, a $899 donation will offer the same perk albeit with the Developer Edition.
The Potential. JIBO seems like a great digital assistant and communication device at its base, with the promise of more to come. JIBO’s disposition seems to be bright and cheerful enough to dissuade any fears of the robot uprising, and the lack of mobility emphasizes this although limits something that would make JIBO a huge leap forward for personal robotics. Those looking for a friendly face in the home that doesn’t need to be walked or cleaned up after will be excited to rush out and make friends with a JIBO as soon as possible.