NTT Disruption, a San Francisco-based company that is part of Japanese telecommunications company NTT Corporation, recently acquired assets from Jibo, the social robotics company that shut down in November 2018.
NTT Disruption acquired the following three patents from Jibo:
- Persistent Companion Device Configuration and Deployment Platform
- Embodied Dialog and Embodied Speech Authoring Tools for Use with an Expressive Social Robot
- Maintaining Attention and Conveying Believability via Expression and Goal-Directed Behavior with a Social Robot
One source told The Robot Report NTT Disruption likely won’t re-start manufacturing of Jibo units for consumers. Rather, NTT will use the acquired assets to build custom products to use for its own business purposes. So don’t expect a comeback similar to what Digital Dream Labs is attempting to do with Anki, which we also learned was developing security robots before it went out of business.
NTT Disruption‘s website says one of the company’s specialties is cognitive social agents. It adds that it is “defining the definitive virtual self, holding an intelligence, a personality and even a soul in the construction of the new mixed reality.”
The Robot Report has reached out to NTT Disruption multiple times, but has not heard back. This story will be updated with any new information we learn.
Connections between Jibo & NTT
There is some familiarity between Jibo and NTT. In February 2018, NTT subsidiary NTT Data partnered with Jibo on a coding application for kids that let users control what the robot said and how it moved. And Martin Pitwood, who joined NTT Disruption in January 2020 as Head of Engineering, was Senior Director of Hardware and Manufacturing NPI at Jibo for three-plus years.
Founded in 2012, Jibo raised nearly $73 million in venture capital after raising more than $3.5 million through a 2014 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. However, problems quickly arose.
A series of delayed shipments forced Indiegogo to offer full refunds for unfulfilled orders. In September 2017, Jibo started shipping its first units and opened sales to the public in October 2017 for $899.
Another major issue came in mid-2016 when the company cancelled overseas orders due to localization issues. At the time, the company said it would only ship robots to customers in the US and Canada. And perhaps the biggest issue, Amazon, Google and others introduced cheaper, more advanced smart speakers for a fraction of Jibo’s price.
SQN Ventures, a New York-based investment management firm, acquired Jibo’s assets in June 2018.
For a more in-depth look at what happened to the social robotics company, check out our article “Jibo social robot: where things went wrong.”