Social robots for companionship have a tall order: Instead of performing a specific function like robotic arms assembling automobiles in car plants, these are intended to primarily interact with people and other objects in its environment with rules attached to its role, but otherwise are generally autonomous.
Jibo is touted as a social robot that is meant to be a companion– ideally at home but works just as well at the office– that lets you and the family interact, play, have fun with, get help, and various other abilities intended to adore members of the household (personalizing experiences with them) while serving different utilities and use cases at the same time.
It can serve as a mobile and ad-hoc computer that notifies you when there are messages, display video, take a video or picturesque and a host of other activities.
It has a fair amount of artificial intelligence built-in, such as “Natural Language Understanding” (NLU)– its voice synthesis and recognition system– and face recognition so it will not only greet you but “face” you when you’re speaking. It’s able to parse your voice commands and respond accordingly as best it could, such as answering general questions the way digital assistants (like Amazon’s Alexa in Echo devices or Google’s Assistant or Home device), with its own unique take on the subject.
Review & Rating
- The screen that serves as its head and face conveys not just useful optics like images in still or video, but express visual cues and emotions
- Feels like a friend and companion
- Has a "friendly" personality (as opposed to more functional demeanors of others)
- Has a fair range of abilities
- Has integrations with smart home and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, so you can tell it to adjust the sound in the living room, turn on/off the lights in the kitchen, and the like
- Continually updated
- A community of users behind it
- Too ambitious, didn't exactly live up to the promises
- Not as advanced as other assistants yet
- Relatively expensive
- Doesn't have limbs or much of any actuator functions
- Some of its integrations feel primitive in comparison with new versions from competing digital assistants
- Lacks a software development kit (SDK) to extend it with a community of developers
Jibo is like a cross between Amazon's Alexa and the robot Eve from the movie Wall-E. While Alexa feels more advanced due to all the research and development budget from Amazon as well as its huge community of developers and users, she's inside functional appliances like the Echo line of speakers and devices. Jibo on the other hand has many of the everyday functions with robotics engineers as founders (and it shows), able to do a lot with a far lesser budget.
But it is not intended to be a partner, voice or assistant to a device such a speaker, but rather intended to be the embodiment of the device itself. The whole deal, hardware and software. And its primary function is to be an interactive companion and robotic friend. That's a tall order. In that regard, it gets a lot of the way there, even though it is playing catchup on the more advanced functions, something its continual updates hopes to polish.
For its intended purpose, it has improved far enough to be viable, and its price continues to drop, to the point that ultimately the question for buyers will not be if they should buy it, but whether the price has dropped far enough.
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Jibo is a good companion for entertainment, but also as a helper, so it can, say, tell you the steps to fixing something, or the recipe for a dish you’re preparing.
You can use it to set alarms and timers, answer general questions, tell you the weather, integrate with Internet of Things (IoT) devices for smart home automation, and plenty of other things in a way that seems similar to Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa and Echo family, but in a flavor that’s its own.
The Good: What We Like
Jibo is like an AI embodied in a tangible bot and creature with a personality the way functional items like smartphones (with Siri) or speakers (like Alexa in Echo) could also do, but due to their purpose, couldn’t. It will do many of similar things as they do (answer questions, give you directions, tell you the weather, crack a joke, schedule an appointment, etc.), but because it has a screen that emotes different emotions as well as graphics and visual cues, Jibo feels like it has a depth of personality that the others don’t, enamoring it to the household and family easily.
And because it was build in no small part to do exactly that, it succeeds without much difficulty. Where it fails in the wishes of many users to be able to do much more, it wins by touching the hearts of the family and endearing itself to them.
The Bad: What We Don’t Like
There are still some limitations to what it can do, and the rough parts may be fundamental in nature that they may be hard to quickly provide a fix for, as the company behind it strives to keep up with the brisk pace of progress made by its industry.
That and its lack of an SDK and developer support and community puts it at risk of stagnating eventually so that while it has fun and exciting uses now, the anticipation for more going forward may cause it to eventually see its support dwindle.
In other words, it’s a cool and fun, personable machine to have now with the current state of high-performance consumer AI and robotics. Just know that long-term, there may be a slight risk about its popularity in the future.
Jibo is a fun sidekick and companion, with a personality that doesn’t try to be naughty to be fun (the way Anki’s Cozmo is fun in that way), and is intended to be a good, clean bringer of smiles to your face. It can play videos, stream music, play the radio, tell you the news, tell you the weather and many other things that it can even remember so it gets to know your preferences over time.
It’s still relatively new, despite being in the market for a while, so it can feel like its technology is just a wee bit behind or missing some advances standard devices from larger companies like Google or Apple provide. But while it continues to improve and gets updates regularly, it gets the job done.
The main difference between Jibo and say, Google Home or Amazon’s Echo (with Alexa) is that while the latter two examples are intended to be functional, Jibo comes with a screen that swivels and displays graphics including emotions with it.
This gives it a personality and advantage over the others that can speak back (and really well at that), but allows Jibo to appeal visually to its users, and connect with them better, make them feel like there’s an emotive connection to the machine and thereby work as a companion than just a utilitarian digital assistant.
Besides, who can resist if you had a robot like this: