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Jibo Family Robot and Alpha 2: The Future of Robotics

Updated on June 1, 2016
Chriswillman90 profile image

Krzysztof is a lifelong future tech junkie investigating the latest stories from companies like Apple, Samsung, Google, and Amazon.

Star Wars C-3PO and R2-D2 robots
Star Wars C-3PO and R2-D2 robots | Source

Jibo Family Robot

What is the Jibo Family Robot?

2016 could be the year of Jibo, a social robot that is able to interact with your entire family on a personalized level.

Jibo was the result of a crowdfunding project on Indiegogo that had accumulated over 3.7 million dollars from backers and contributors. In layman's terms, it became one of the most successful crowdfunding projects to date.

Why?

I won't get into the detailed specifications of Jibo but let's just say "he" (designed to be male) can recognize and track faces, capture photos, listen to you from across the room, offer helpful reminders, act as a personal assistant, and use expressive emotional cues that look and sound like a real person. (great with storytelling for kids).

The bottom line is that the Jibo family robot is a friendly (albeit stationary) piece of AI (artificial intelligence) that attempts to make your family's lives a bit funner and easier.

Alpha 2

Jibo: World's First Social Robot

What is the Alpha 2 Humanoid Robot?

Like Jibo, the Alpha 2 (as of late November 2015) is being funded through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo and has surpassed expectations regarding the company and founder's stretch goals.

It's well on its way to join Jibo as one of the top crowdfunded projects ever, and oddly enough it's a device that's ingrained in marketable robotics.

So what's Alpha 2 and what makes him different from Jibo?

The biggest difference is that this family robot can move! That's right, Alpha 2 is more closely related to what we think a consumer robot should be with 20 joints that replicate human motion.

Having movement allows him to do a bit more than its predecessor like mimic movement, dance, and even assist with DIY (do-it-yourself projects) by holding/giving objects like tools.

He does a plethora of other things similar to Jibo as well as the ability to control smart home devices, locks, and WiFi office equipment.

Year of Social Robots

Alpha 2: First Family Humanoid Robot

Is 2016 the Year of Social Robots?

With both prototypes expected to be finalized and shipped in the first quarter of 2016, this is a valid question.

2016 itself is likely to be a banner year for technology with virtual reality's Oculus Rift and HTC Vive getting ready to make their debut. The Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard got a bit of a head start (released in late 2015), but they're nowhere near as powerful as what's to arrive.

That year will also mark the first widespread introduction to augmented reality from Microsoft's HoloLens, and I'm sure we'll continue to see major advances with voice activation and television tech.

Other devices include the Amazon Echo, which is set to be a surprise top seller for the 2015 holiday season, and OLED TV technology is going to explode in the coming months.

So yeah 2016 has a lot of things going for it, and I've barely begun to scratch the surface, however; where will Jibo and Alpha 2 rank a year from now?

Their incredible crowdfunding success tells us that people are ready for a family friendly robot that's not a stoic, cylindrical slave for our pleasure (sorry Echo), but rather an interactive machine that can entertain and make our lives run smoother.

As of now, It's difficult to gauge their impact on buyers (since they haven't been released yet), so the first thing to look at is whether or not they'll deliver what was promised on their subsequent Indiegogo pages.

And they better pass step one...

Future of Alpha 2 and Jibo

Consumer testing of Samsung VR Headset
Consumer testing of Samsung VR Headset | Source

Will Jibo and Alpha 2 Surprise or Disappoint?

What you read or see is not always what you get, and these products are no exception. The trailers for each are excellent because they showcase exactly what they were intended to do.

However, recently I've read a few articles that stated the Jibo trailer promises a lot more than what's currently capable (false advertising?). This raises a lot of questions whether or not it'll be even worth buying just for novelty purposes.

Unless you're a die hard gadget maniac or perhaps review these things for a living, then I doubt you'd waste your time and money on an unfinished product. I haven't heard too much about the Alpha 2 so I can't comment on it but same rules apply.

Ultimately I believe the only way either product will have an impact is if they exceed expectations. Since they are so new and the first of their kind, they really need to blow buyers away to generate a profit/interest.

They don't have to be flawless, but they'll need to raise the stakes in order to gain consumer trust because the costs are no joke. Again, the Amazon Echo is probably the most recent example of a flawed product that had enough leverage to attract a slew of buyers.

We've also seen what happens when a supposed "innovative" product falls short such as the Apple Watch.

There was a lot of disappointment and complaints regarding that product especially given the high price. It was still profitable since not surprisingly Apple fanatics hopped on board, but it was the Apple brand, not watch, that brought them in.

Currently the Apple Watch is still a work in progress unlike Amazon's Fire Phone that got blown up and sunk to the bottom of the sea.

Jibo and Alpha 2 will ultimately fall into one of those three scenarios, and that will determine whether or not we are ready to embrace robotics and this form of new tech/AI in the not so distant future.

Robots in Society

The Apple Watch Sport edition
The Apple Watch Sport edition | Source

Are We Ready to Embrace Robots?

Even if the technology succeeds and Jibo and Alpha 2 work perfectly, there's still no guarantee that they'll slip into our lives with ease.

Society, for the most part, embraces new technology if it makes our lives better, safer, and easier, but there's always been a "what if" element regarding AI and robots.

A digital assistant integrated in an iPhone like Siri, a form of AI, doesn't sound as threatening as a physical robot taking space in our homes.

When you factor in things like facial recognition and always being turned on, then it makes us worry more about privacy concerns and hacking.

People bring up Skynet when referring to robotics because some individuals are legitimately concerned that AI and robotics will one day take over and control mankind.

I understand a lot of those concerns are seen as humorous to many, but I strongly believe it is a real concern (well sort of). The number one concern will always be privacy but that isn't confined to robotics.

I think it's quite clear that the more physical presence something has, the more anxiety we feel about it. It's that sole reason why there's liable to be numerous skeptics once these products get released.

Future of Robotics

Trailer for Movie "Ex Machina"

What is the Future of Robotics?

We're in our most primitive state when it comes to robots and robotics, and something like Jibo will be seen as a joke 10-15 years from now, however; the future is now!

This is an exciting time to be alive if you love and are ready to embrace technology, but what will the growth be like?

It's feasible that social robots will one day become a normal thing, and they'll be far more advanced than even our most ambitious portrayals today. They will also be a lot more mobile and perform physical tasks for us (ex. making and getting coffee).

In fact, we've already seen numerous robots perform complex tasks, but they have yet to be accepted into our homes, which is where the future lies.

Presently our personal digital assistants are tethered to specific devices or immobile, but we'll one day have an actual Siri robot to guide us on a daily to weekly basis.

I realize this may be troubling to think about, but all it takes is some getting used to. If we're able to get our privacy concerns under control and deliver a robot that can make our lives less complicated, then I'm sure most will embrace them over time.

And those who are truly concerned about AI taking over, then stick around for several decades because we are very far removed from that concept.

(Relax: Jibo and Alpha 2 won't turn you into their personal slaves)

That means you can sleep well tonight tonight because the future terminators you worry about will only be confined to those two great movies (and horrid sequels).

Your Turn!

Would you buy Jibo or Alpha 2?

See results

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