The robots are here! Well, one of them. This week, Cynthia Breazeal, MIT’s pioneer researcher in social robotics, announced a project that we’ve been waiting for: Jibo, your family’s friendly robot companion. It’s essentially a voice-enabled expressive countertop appliance with a colorful screen for a face and a jolly, rotating torso that allows it to turn towards a person with socially appropriate gestures. In other words, Jibo can pay attention to you and carry on a conversation like it really cares.
The video above does a great job of telling the story of how Jibo might fit into your life, serving as an internet-enabled coach, personal assistant, video chatting system, entertainment hub, and all-around connected companion.
We’ve been following the field of social robotics for some time, and have noted women leaders such as Dr. Breazeal in this Fast Company article, “How Women Are Leading The Effort To Make Robots More Humane”. While most of the groundbreaking work so far has been confined to university laboratories, Jibo represents a bold move into the consumer market. Currently in a crowdfunding effort on IndieGoGo, the product is scheduled to ship in December 2015.
As product designers we know the challenges that go into making a product’s interactions truly socially compelling, as outlined in this piece about Jibo in MIT Technology Review. We also know that it’s tricky to build a general-purpose connected device that can adequately fulfill a user’s needs better than all the other competing internet-connected appliances in the home. Nonetheless we’re very excited about Jibo and look forward to following its progress as it develops.
See the New York Times piece on Jibo and social robotics here.