When I was in third grade, my teacher asked each of us to build our own robot and present it to the class for a school project. Building a robot was an exciting project for all of us. Inspired by “Lampy” from The Brave Little Toaster, I made mine out of an old desk lamp, utilizing the base for its feet, the arm for its body, and the light bulb socket for its nose. I remember feeling so proud of my refurbished lamp-bot. At the time, at least to me, the idea of a real household robot was still one of fantasy; one for the movies and TV shows, and one for children like me to build in day school. I do remember thinking, however, how cool it would be if I could actually own a robot like R2-D2 or C3PO and wondering what the world would be like if everyone owned a robot like that. Yea right, right? Well, little did I know that as I sat building my little toy robot in the third grade, Dr. Cynthia Breazeal was working on hers too… in a lab at MIT.
About 15 years ago, Dr. Breazeal set out to create just that: a robot, a technology that “can support a far more personally meaningful human experience.” That technology is JIBO, which claims to be the first social robot for the family. JIBO is the first robot intended to stay in your home and actually serve a role for you and your family through a variety of interactive engagements.
From only one vantage point, JIBO’s innovative swivel design and facial, voice, and motion recognition allows it to engage with multiple people at once. JIBO will even learn the names of the people in the room and will start to address people by their name. JIBO is small and white (or black) with an LCD screen that projects an emotionally expressive face. Basically, it reminds me of a standing version of “Eve” from Wall-E.
Here are some of the things JIBO will be able to do:
- You can tell JIBO to become the cameraman for your event, and JIBO will document the evening, taking pictures on command, allowing you to stay a part of the action and actually be in the pictures.
- Instead of an e-reader, JIBO is an engaging storyteller, performing the story with you as its audience.
- During a video call, JIBO can address an entire group and will even turn towards whoever is speaking, allowing the entire group to interact with the video call instead of passing around a flat “talking head” on your phone.
- Instead of a preschool application or game, JIBO becomes an interactive teacher and personalized learning companion, actually teaching you and engaging you or your children about a particular subject, answering questions and rendering extrapolations.
- JIBO greets you by name when you arrive home, can turn on the lights for you, and even let you know who called or that someone knocked on the door in your absence.