Social robots may soon become part of the household with the help of a small family robot called Jibo.
The vision of Cynthia Breazeal, director of the Personal Robots Group at MIT Media Lab, came to life Wednesday with the unveiling of her latest project, the Jibo family robot, developed by Jibo Inc., which she founded.
Standing a mere 11 inches high and weighing just 6 pounds, Jibo is designed as a bridge between robotics and the home, said Breazeal.
“It’s hard for people to imagine having a 4-foot humanoid in their home,” Breazeal told International Business Times.
Out of the box, Jibo has the ability to learn about the people around it and recognize different voices and faces. This is used by Jibo to interact with its users, whether it’s through conversation or coordinating a specific task such as sorting through voice messages.
Initially, Jibo will take on roles such as personal photographer, messenger, storyteller, companion and video-chat avatar.
While that might sound somewhat limited, Breazeal notes that machine learning and artificial intelligence are often improved when limited to specific tasks or boundaries. With that in mind, Jibo wasn’t designed to take the place of humans but to complement human relationships.
“Jibo doesn’t replace people and human relationships; rather, it is designed to support, complement and extend what we need from others in an affordable, effective and delightful way so that we can succeed, thrive and grow,” Breazeal said.
But that doesn’t mean that Jibo’s skillset won’t grow as the technology matures.
Jibo Inc. plans to expand Jibo’s abilities through both in-house software updates and third-party features developed through the JiboAlive software development kit (SDK) program.
Jibo isn’t in retail stores just yet, but Jibo Inc. aims for the product's first limited run to ship during the 2015 Christmas holiday for $499, with preorders requiring a minimum deposit of $99.
While the consumer model comes with the JiboAlive SDK, developers can choose the $599 developer package, which includes additional support and earlier access to Jibo in the fall of 2015.
Robotics have made headway in recent months from other companies as well. Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC) introduced a robot called Jimmy in May, which can be customized and 3D-printed by prospective owners. And Japan’s Softbank Corp. (TYO:9984) introduced its own humanoid robot in June called Pepper, which has the ability to read and interpret emotions.