Poor Jibo can’t do anything right anymore. Not even when it shows love for the 2016 Summer Olympics, which recently came to a close in Rio.
In the video above, the social robot is asked what events at the Olympics were its favorite. Jibo then goes through a cool animation, displaying the Olympic rings, completing two 360 degree turns, and showing its love for weightlifting (huffing and puffiing along the way), boxing (dodging multiple jabs), and either badminton or tennis.
Sure, the video most likely is displaying one-command recognition and a pre-programmed sequence of actions. But if Jibo can replicate this type of experience in your home, isn’t it the personality you fell in love with at the beginning?
Jibo getting into your home is a big if, I get it. Missing multiple deadlines and announcing that it won’t ship to backers outside the US and Canada any time soon is not a good look for the most successful crowdfunded robot ever, which raised $3,710,410 (2,288% funded) on Indiegogo when its campaign closed on September 15, 2014.
But this was a pretty harmless video, yet the comments on Jibo’s Facebook page are brutal. Here’s a sampling of what some backers had to say:
Jibo backers are not thrilled about the social robot’s love for the Olympics. (Credit: Jibo Facebook page)
I understand the vitriol from Jibo’s earliest backers who have patiently waited nearly two years and have nothing to show for it. But do people honestly think Cynthia Breazeal, the pioneer of social robotics, deliberately misled backers to get the project off the ground? I highly doubt it. Too much at stake for her. It’s more likely the company didn’t anticipate many of the technical and production challenges they’ve encountered, and for that, they should be criticized.
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Breazeal and others might have hoped a bigger company would have acquired Jibo, but the personal robotics industry is still in its infancy. Nobody has figured it out yet. Softbank’s Pepper humanoid robot started off as a consumer robot, too, but all indications of late point to Softbank positioning Pepper as a commercial robot that works at retail stores and can be sold at a much heftier price. Smart move if you ask me.
As an astute reader pointed out, there’s many parallels that can be drawn between what’s happening with Jibo and the early PC days when software (and hardware) companies would pre-announce products promising features and delivery dates they couldn’t make. Creating a social robot isn’t as simple as throwing some senors and motors together with a cute design and some speech recognition software. If it was, it would’ve been done successfully by now.
Jibo and Moorebot look like long lost twins.
Jibo is facing more competition by the day. Not only is there Amazon Echo, which is much cheaper, and the announcement of Google Home, but there’s a new Jibo knock-off called Moorebot that is nearly 200% funded on Indiegogo with one month left in its crowdfunding campaign.
Clearly, people want a social robot. And from Pepper to Jibo, Buddy, Aido, Xenbo, Moorebot and many others, companies are trying to figure this out. There will be many failures before it’s figured out, and Jibo very well could end up a failure. But at least Jibo isn’t in a rush to get the social robot out the door. That would be their biggest mistake.
Some of the decisions Jibo has made were extremely difficult and damaging to the brand. But if Jibo fails, it won’t be because of shipping delays or cancellation of international orders. It’ll be because it didn’t live up to the hype it promised at the start.
Again, that’s possible. But chances are you’ve never lived with a social robot. Certainly you can wait a few more months. If Jibo doesn’t ship by the end of 2016, then we can talk.