19 Sep 2014
A few years back, Apple made headlines when it introduced the world to Siri, the talking personal assistant who came standard with every iPhone 4S. Siri was an artificial intelligence program that could answer simple questions such as the temperature outside or help you make a phone call or send a message to other iPhone users.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft recently rolled out Cortana, a similar voice-controlled virtual assistant built into the new Windows smart phone that can do everything Siri can and much, much more.
While these devices are impressive, they are only the beginning.
Introducing Jibo, your future foot-high robotic friend and personal assistant. Jibo isn’t a disembodied voice that lives in your smart phone. He (or “it”?) is an interactive robot that bears a striking resemblance to the Eve, one of the robot characters featured in the movie “Wall-E”.
Like Siri and Cortana, Jibo will be able to answer your questions, remind you of important appointments and help you make dinner reservations. But Jibo also is able to recognize your face, make suggestions based on your previous preferences, and can tailor its responses directly to you, rather than giving generic, blanket responses the way his phone-based counterparts do.
But Jibo isn’t just a robot. He’s a social robot with whom you can hold a conversation. While he will answer your questions and search the web to make your life easier, he also can more around, turn his head to “look” at you when you are speaking to him, and even find you in a crowd of other people.
Soon to Be Available Everywhere
Currently, Jibo is still in the development state at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab’s Personal Robots Group. But plans are to have him available for sale by the 2015 holiday season at a cost of about $500.
Like a tablet, Jibo will be able to take pictures and videos. He also can research information on the web, can be used to read books or watch videos, or let you participate in teleconferencing. But he also has groundbreaking social applications, such as recognizing and greeting you when you get home, or reminding you about important information throughout your day. He will turn and look at you when you are speaking to him and even appear to be listening.
While Jibo will be initially marketed as a “family” robot for home use, there are many applications for materials handling that could make Jibo — or social robots like him — an integral part of the industrial workplace of the future.
Jibo features human and facial recognition programs, as well as a stereo camera that allows him to distinguish people from their background surroundings. It can recognize your face and identify who is is talking to. He eventually will be able to recognize your facial expressions so he can tell what kind of mood you are in and cater his interactions with your state of mind.
The purpose of this new type of social robot was to take the experience of Siri and Cortana one step further, according to Cynthia Breazeal, director of the lab where Jibo is being built.
“We need technology to transcend the world of information into a more humanized realm,” Breazeal told Wired magazine. “Something like this is a nice bridge between devices and tablets and robots that we imagine in science fiction.”