Remember Jibo? The cute, little white robot that had human like personality traits, that could both act as a personal robotic assistant while keeping your kids and grandmother company so that you, the product of a self-absorbed, 21st-century capitalist society, don’t have to? Whatever happened to it?
Cynthia Breazeal initially brought her passion project, Jibo, out to the public with a YouTube video last year (2014). The video currently stands at a solid 10 million views, and since then has captured the attention of many, and she alongside her team have kickstarted numerous campaigns to fund this project to bring Jibo to “life”.
So…What Is JIBO?
A robot with a twist, basically. It’s not your typical robot (because robots are so “typical”) that walks around and picks things up with occasionally making a noise, and nor is it just there to set reminders and make video calls. It is, in a way, a part of your family. Or at least that’s what the hope is for the creators. They want it to have the ability to interact and react with you. Sounds a bit too Terminator 3 if you ask me, but the cuteness of the little things makes up for it. It, or rather “he” according to the creators, looks a tad like the girl robot from Wall-E, but a bit pudgier, and it he can’t fly. He stands at about a foot tall and 6″ wide, and is quite rounded and smooth. He has a “head” that swivels around his grounded body, and a circular screen, which both acts as a display but also his “face” if you will. In a recent interview with Popular Science Breazeal mentioned that her interest in robots stemmed from Star Wars, and seeing the two classic machines that are now household names, R2-D2 and C3PO, constantly squabbling in a very relatable and humanlike manner. When asked if our homes really needed more screens and gadgets, she replied with the following:
Jibo is a community experience. Jibo can look at me and talk to me, and look at my kids and talk to my kids. We can use Jibo together. We don’t have to feel like there’s something competing for our focused attention the way a phone screen does. We can have a group dynamic, and you still are engaged with the people around you. You’re not pushing people away, the way that our current devices do. It’s a very different experience.
So…Where Is Jibo?
The Boston based company started an Indiegogo campaign on September 2014, which has raised over $3 million dollars as of June 2015. Not much was mentioned or known in regards to exactly how much the company has raised since then, or in total from other investors aside from online campaigns. Until recently, that is. Forbes released an article that mentions the following:
Jibo raised a $25 million Series A round at the beginning of the year and soon added an additional $11 million from strategic investors in Asia. The Asia-based investors include Samsung, LG, Acer , Dentsu Ventures, KDDI and NetPosa.
Jibo added another $16 million in it’s Series A extension, which will bring the robot to places like China and Japan. Forbes goes on to mention that the total capital raised for this little guy is a whopping $60 million. $60 million, and we still don’t have this? Give me $60 million, and I’ll build you Iron Man’s suit. Breazeal was hoping for a late 2015 release, but seeing as we’re about a couple days away from the New Year, it’s safe to say that, that’s not going to happen. I joke obviously, and am sure there’s a lot more that goes on in terms of testing and what not to have the final product realized. But still, it does seem that when we initially saw the video almost two years ago, that the company were already well into it’s final build, and so to have it be almost two years into it’s development and still not have a final release date, is a tad curious.
The company has sent out many developer/prototype kits to those who helped fund the project, and has been consistent in updating their company blog on their website, illustrating the process/journey of Jibo. If you head over to the company’s website, you’ll see the most recent blogs in where you read about members of the product team talk with Jibo about why he likes Back To The Future; which would be absolutely awesome to see if they had a video uploaded, but they don’t. A recent blog post did show another milestone that the company has reached in terms of development. It’s a progress report video of some final testing that was done on their second prototype during their testing with contractors in China. The full blog post alongside the video can be found here:
So it does seem that progress, though moving slowly, is being made. There is no official release date, but members of the team do hope to have it out to the public by mid-2016.
What do you think about Jibo? Will you pick it up when it finally releases? Do you think it’s going to be as great as the company hopes? Let us know in the comments below!