July 17, 2014
Do you remember Rosie, the robot maid, from the Jetsons? Remember how she was always treated as a character in her own right and not just as an appliance. The same can be said about R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars, and even Sonny from I, Robot. All of these characters, despite them being robots, were people’s friends. They were a part of the family. I will not deny that I have always dreamed about having just such a robot companion, a friend who would always be there with me and help me out when I needed it, and I am sure there are many other kids out there who dream of the same thing.
Now, thanks to the innovation of Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, associate professor of media arts and sciences at MIT and regarded as something of a pioneer in social robotics, those dreams will soon become a possible reality. As such, the world will soon be saying “hello” to a new friend, Jibo.
According to Mashable, Jibo is an 11-inch tall, three-axis motion robot that looks very reminiscent of EV from Wall-E. Jibo’s primary function, according to Dr. Breazeal, is that it will “support the human experience, but does not try to be human.” Jibo is meant to be a companion, not just another social media device like a smartphone or a tablet. It is meant to be a friend and honestly shows a lot of promise in that regard. Through various tech demonstrations we can see Jibo interacting with people, talking with them, and being helpful. In its promotional videos, we can see Jibo talking with people, reminding them of important dates or notifications, teaching kids and reading them stories, while still expressing what can only be defined as a personality. The way we can see Jibo reacting and interacting, it does not feel like something a robot would do. It is very easy to imagine becoming very attached to Jibo as it becomes a part of people’s lives.
So what will it take to buy our new friend? For those to jump into this project early through its crowd-funding campaign, it will cost only $499. Once it goes into full production, it is estimated to be priced accordingly with some of the higher end tablets on the market. As it stands, we can expect to see Jibo in stores sometime in 2016.
Jibo stands as a true achievement in terms of social robotics. Its designed to be cute and friendly, without any risk of appearing in the much dreaded “uncanny valley” by appearing too human. It has a soft, friendly voice that is very endearing and a large, spherical eye that is very emotive and can even change to take on different shapes such as hearts, smiley faces, and even the big, bad wolf while reading a bedtime story. In addition to all that, Jibo is able to speak very clearly, understand spoken commands through conversation rather than having to be given set instructions, and is even able to recognize people by their voices and faces. What more? Jibo is even able to learn, taking on new skills and functions as additional programming becomes available. The eventual goal is for Jibo to act as the interface for our homes.
Jibo is a huge step forward in human/robot interaction and integration. The work done by Dr. Breazeal and her team is truly astounding. Jibo’s viewable interaction with people is absolutely astounding, and Dr. Breazeal describes it as, “People want technology to treat them like a human being. Right now, technology treats us like technology: We get beeped at.” Jibo, on the other hand, is a robot that knows how to treat people like people, and that itself is something to get excited about.
Image Credit: Jibo