Being called the "world's first family robot," JIBO will probably be a welcome sight to anyone who grew up idolizing robotic characters in film and television—like R2-D2 and C-3PO, Johnny 5, Maria from Metropolis, and Wall-E. Created by roboticist Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, the cute little device sort of looks like a friendly lamp with its large orb-like face, and we desperately want one. While JIBO performs pretty simple tasks, like taking pictures and reading your emails, its design interface is breathtaking (assuming they can pull off what the promotional video promises).
JIBO has some pretty basic abilities but incredible potential. It can take pictures and facilitate video calling using two hi-res cameras (it can even track faces), and it can apparently hear pretty well thanks to a 360-degree microphone and natural language processing (meaning you can talk to it from pretty far away).
JIBO's artificial intelligence algorithms will learn your preferences and adapt to better fit in with your life—which is something even your own cat refuses to do. It's really just meant to help you out from day-to-day, whether it be to let you know you have a text message or to read your kids a bedtime story. The video really makes it seem as if you can have actual conversations with JIBO, like a more realistic version of Samantha in Her (we don't recommend falling in love with JIBO though). Plus, it seems pretty easy to set up and doesn't have unnecessary buttons or gesture-control commands. Unfortunately, you will pretty much have to keep JIBO plugged in at all times because the battery life is only 30 minutes.
According to MIT Technology Review, "Breazeal’s academic work advanced the power of harnessing social signals in robots several decades ago. Her Kismet robot had an expressive eyes, ears, and lips—designed to elicit and respond to emotion in human users, and Breazeal and colleagues found that such “sociable machines” could elicit surprisingly powerful effects on the humans interacting with them."
Though JIBO seems pretty basic compared to other smart tech out there, he's actually built that way for a reason. JIBO is "an open platform, his skills and applications will grow" in ways that the company may not have even thought of yet themselves. Though it's on the open Linus and anyone with a working knowledge of entry-level graphic programming interfaces will be able to enhance JIBO, his subsystem will stay closed for now.
Through Indiegogo, the robot has already surpassed its $100,000 goal and at the time of this article has made over $600,000. If you want to be one of the first to get JIBO, it only takes a pledge of $499. For those who are interested in adding to the software, get the developer edition for $599. Considering the design would be great for kids, the campaign also allows you to donate towards giving a JIBO to the Boston Children's Hospital so it can help kids and their families—either by giving $80 (every five donations equals one JIBO given) or by going for one of the "Buy 1 Give 1" deals for $799 and $899.
The developer version of JIBO is slated to ship around in the third quarter of 2015 (July, August, or September) and the next shipment will arrive by the holidays. Public release isn't planned until 2016.