I always thought that when robots became so prevalent every home had one, they'd be of the Rosie variety from "The Jetsons." Kind of a helpful servant that could do the dishes, walk the dog, and always have a witty comeback.
It's looking like my idea of in-home bots might be a little far apart from the reality.
Having just launched an Indiegogo campaign this week, Jibo is touting itself as the "world's first family robot." But it won't whip up dinner, dust the furniture, or take the kids to school. In fact, it can't even move. Instead, it sits on one of several charging pads you place around your home and does things like take your picture, remind you of appointments, and deliver messages.
Why is it called a "family robot" then? Because it has the ability to learn the faces of every person in the house and provide them with tailored messages and information. For kids, it can read stories complete with swiveling movements. It also uses a variety of algorithms to learn to adapt to the needs of different family members.
Then there's the fact that it's completely adorable.Jibo has a large black glass "face" that lights up with a circular icon that's part eye, part mouth, and entirely cute. The body of the robot has sensors that can pick up your touch too, letting it react accordingly, like displaying a big heart on its screen when you caress it.
"Jibo is the first in a new class of family robotics that will humanize information, apps, and services, and ultimately will help people and families affordably address fundamental human needs that require high-touch engagement for the best human outcomes like education, independent aging and health management in the convenience of their home," Jibo creator Cynthia Breazeal from MIT's Media Lab said in a statement.
Breazeal has spent much of her career researching ways to make computers more responsive to humans and their emotions. Jibo, Breazeal feels, is the outcome of that work. "We've achieved greatness in the computing and social-media revolutions," she said. "The next wave, emotive computing, is upon us, and Jibo is a transformative, social and emotive robot that will help people thrive like part of the family."
Breazeal will also be making a toolkit available to developers who can come up with even more fun and useful stuff for the 11-inch-high Jibo to do.
Jibo's has already blown past its Indiegogo fundraising goal of $100,000 by more than $50,000 -- with 31 days still left in the campaign.
If you're ready to add another member to your family, you can order a Jibo for $499, with an expected ship date of September 2015. The early-bird option of paying $99 now and $400 later is all gone. In the world of robots, things move fast indeed.