Was Jibo the Robot a Success or a Failure?
Jibo, The Social Robot
2018 could be the year of Jibo, a $899 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.
I won't get into the specifications of Jibo but "he" can do the following:
- Recognize and track multiple faces
- Capture photos
- Listen to you from across the room
- Act as a personal assistant (like Alexa in the Echo)
- Use expressive emotional cues that look and sound like a real person. (great with storytelling for kids).
You can wake up Jibo with the phrase "Hey Jibo" and ask him to dance or simply have him look at you with that adorable, expressive face.
He tries to be that perfect mix between Alexa and an animated character, but he just doesn't do enough to justify that price tag yet. However Jibo could be the start of the next wave of AI & robotics, and I'm sure others are taking notice.
Ultimately this Pixar like character is what developers eventually want Alexa or the Google Assistant to be.
What is the Alpha 2 Humanoid Robot?
Like Jibo, the Alpha 2 was funded through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo and has surpassed expectations regarding the company and founder's stretch goals.
It's 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 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.
The Year of Social Robots
With both prototypes expected to be finalized and shipped in the last quarter of 2017, this is a valid question.
2018 itself is likely to be a banner year for technology with virtual reality's Oculus Rift and HTC Vive beginning to take off along with mobile units like the Gear VR and Google's Daydream.
That year will also mark the first widespread introduction to augmented reality from Microsoft's HoloLens and Apple. I'm sure we'll continue to see major advances with voice activation and television tech.
The Amazon Echo was a surprise top seller of the 2015/16 holiday season, and OLED TV technology is going to explode in the coming months.
So yeah 2018 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...
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 were excellent because they showcased exactly what they were intended to do.
However Jibo's campaign promised a lot more than he does especially for that price. The Echo does far more useful things than Jibo, but it's not as animated or colorful as he is.
Still 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 attained enough leverage to attract buyers.
We've also seen what happens when a supposed "innovative" product falls short such as the Apple Watch (at least initially).
Update: Apple Watch is doing a lot better now.
At first there was a lot of disappointment and complaints regarding that product given the high price, but over time it became profitable once non Apple fanatics hopped on board.
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.
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.
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).