Meet the World's First Family Robot


Society has long fantasized about robotic home helpers, but making one that is smart, helpful, affordable, and aesthetically pleasing is no easy feat. That’s what makes the new Jibo robot so impressive. This 6-pound, 11-inch-tall mechanical cyborg was unveiled on Indiegogo today as “The World’s First Family Robot,” aimed at being both a home helper and a friend. The crowdfunding campaign already hit its goal of $100,000 and is still climbing.

Jibo was created by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, director of the Personal Robots Group at MIT Media Lab and an expert in how humans interact with robots. Her goal? To humanize technology. “What if technology actually treated you like a human being?” Breazeal asks. “What if technology helped you feel closer to the ones you loved? What if technology helped you like a partner, rather than simply being a tool? That’s what Jibo’s about.” She wants Jibo to be a household companion, like a pet, or perhaps even another family member. And except for a heartbeat, it has all the hallmarks of a buddy.

It knows who you are.

Jibo's two hi-res cameras recognize and track your face, letting the bot call you by name and respond to your commands.

It knows what you like.

Over time, the bot will adapt to your preferences and learn your tastes. The Indiegogo demo video shows Jibo knowing—and then ordering—its owner’s favorite take-out meal.

It does nice things for you.

Jibo will send reminders and relay messages from your mobile devices. It will help you take the perfect photo by detecting when everyone in the frame is smiling before snapping the shot. The demo video also hints at a time when Jibo will be able to connect to other smart things in your house, switching on lights when you get home or turning down the temperature when you’re gone. The demo video even shows Jibo telling bedtime stories to youngsters.

Jibo can project social and emotional cues.

The bot's LCD screen serves as a de facto face with a digital eye that can squint with happiness or swell with curiosity. It responds to human touch, and its fluid body motions make him appear truly alive and relatable. “It’s really important for technology to be humanized,” Dr. Breazeal told the New York Times. “The next stage in computing, the next wave, is emotion.”

But what about security? The idea of having an all-seeing intelligent robot lurking in the corner of the living room might make more than a few people uneasy. The company says users' privacy is a top priority. It has “designed policies and controls to safeguard the collection, use, and disclosure of your information.”

At $499, this robot is cheaper than many top-of-the-line laptops. If you want to get your hands on Jibo, its creators say they hope to make him available to consumers by the end of 2015.

Images courtesy of JIBO on Indiegogo.