Gizmos & Gadgets: A Family Robot Named JIBO

July 18, 2014 – On Indiegogo this month, in fact since posting on July 16th, two days ago, a robotics project has received over 580% of its funding target of $100,000 U.S. Named JIBO, the device created by world famous, Dr. Cynthia Breazeal of MIT, is described as the “world’s first family robot.”

If you don’t remember who Breazeal is, she was featured on CBS in 2001 with a humanoid robot named Kismet, and on the American public television network, PBS, in an episode of NOVA aired in 2006. In that program Breazeal and Neil deGrasse Tyson talked to a furry-faced robot known as Leonardo. Leonardo was a product of the Robotic Life Lab at MIT.

Breazeal’s goal then and now remains to humanize robots. She wants robots to become part of our daily lives, to fit in the living room not the way a Roomba does as it endlessly cleans floors, but as a friendly and communicative family member.

JIBO (seen in the image below on the right) doesn’t look anything like the furry-anthropomorphic cuddle bunny that was Leonardo (the cute robot on the left). In fact JIBO looks a lot more like a domestic appliance, akin to a 21st century tabletop fan such as those made by Dyson.


Leonardo and Jibo robots


But don’t be deceived by appearances. JIBO is loaded to see, hear, learn, speak, relate and help. It comes equipped with two high-resolution cameras with face tracking capability. Its microphone and natural language processing technology allows family members to interact with it from anywhere in a room where it is placed. It has on board artificial intelligence capable of pattern recognition so that it can adapt to all family members as a personal assistant. It provides appointment reminders, relates messages, and picks up on social and emotional cues as it communicates.

See that face with what looks like a suspended white orb in the middle of a black LCD display. Well that is the virtual eye of JIBO that swivels 360 degrees as it finds those in the room with whom to interact. Just connect JIBO to a WiFi home network and let it learn who you are by listening to you and recognizing your face. Ask JIBO what it can do and begin a relationship.

JIBO comes with a mobile app to connect to Android, iPhone and iPad devices. It also interacts with computers and other JIBOs. And a new JIBO Store to be launched in the summer of 2015 will expand JIBO’s capabilities and allow purchasers to accessorize to make their JIBO unique. Maybe there will be a Leonardo costume to make JIBO cuter.

On Indiegogo, you can put an order in for a JIBO to be shipped to you before Christmas 2015. The price $499 US.

Want to learn more about JIBO? Watch the YouTube video.

Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...