The Jibo Family Robot

The Jibo family robot has raised more than a $1 Million with its crowd-funding campaign on IndieGoGo. Lead by Cynthia Breazeal, famous for her pioneer work in social robots with MIT, the project marks the beginning of intelligent home robots. The robot is available today on IndieGoGo for just $400, and will start shipping in December 2015.

Let's see what the future Jibo promises, and also take a look at the development tools that will be available.

Jibo family robot helps with cooking

What Will Jibo Do For You?

The Jibo family robot promises to be the first of its kind. It is actually part of a new wave of home robots along with the Pepper robot. Both robots are quite different, but should in large part bring the same services to you.

First, Jibo will connect you to the world through a natural vocal interaction. Want to hear your latest e-mails, or text messages? He will read them for you, and will even move to add more drama to the words. Same with tweets, Facebook updates, etc... With his little screen, he can even show you the latest pictures of your friends on Instagram, or play a Youtube video. And since the little robot can see with his camera, he can make sure the screen is always visible to you.

A lot of emphasis has been put by Pr. Cynthia Breazeal on the Jibo family robot telling stories to children. While it will be one of the possible apps on the robot, I strongly doubt this is the killer app, or that it will be anything more than a simple app among many much better uses of the robot. Many games similar to smartphone apps will take much more importance than simply reading stories.

Many service apps would be convenient to have on the robot: telling you a recipe while both hands are occupied with the cooking, taking family pictures without having 1 person left out, coaching your kids for homework and many other little skills that will make Jibo so useful at home.

Finally, as the Internet of Things movement is moving along, the Jibo family robot will be able to be your interface to all those these devices on you (like Fitbit) or in your home (lights, microwave...). Instead of having 1 app or 1 remote for each device, Jibo could centralize the interaction so that you can talk to your devices directly.

Developping with Jibo

In order to develop new skills for Jibo, its creators are preparing a toolkit and an SDK.

The JiboAlive toolkit will consist on a web-based graphical programming interface. That means boxes and decision trees that link sensor inputs ("seeing a human", "hearing the word 'hello'", ...) to actions ("saying 'hello'", make a happy move). The goal of this toolkit is to enable anyone to create new simple skills on the robot. It's the same strategy used by many robotics platforms like Lego, Nao and Pepper, etc...

The JiboAlive SDK will disclose the full set of APIs to control everything on the robot using the Javascript programming language. Andy Atkins, the VP Engineering of the Jibo team, explains in a blog post that they chose Javascript because it is easier to learn and develop with it than a more traditional language like C++ or Java.

My main worry with the robot running only Javascript is that it will be difficult to develop your own vision or sound processing algorithms if you want to extend the capabilities of the robot. Nao allows to develop both in Python and C++, both of which have a large set of efficient signal processing libraries to do the heavy work.

The CPU was not revealed yet. They will probably go for something similar as what smartphones use.

Getting Your Own Jibo Family robot

The Jibo family robot

The Jibo family robot is available through their crowdsourcing campaign until the August 16th, 2014. Click here to order one now!

The Home Edition costs $500, while the developer edition with the JiboAlive SDK costs $600. Add $50 for shipping if you don't live in the US or Canada.

The first developer units should ship around December 2015, quickly followed by the first consumer editions. Once the units pre-ordered through IndieGoGo are out, they should open the product to everyone who wants it, around the beginning of 2016.

You may also be interested in:

Pepper robot: the first personal robot will be available in Japan from February 2015!

Pleo the dinosaur robot: why not adopt a robotic pet today?

Check out the best telepresence robots, and see how they could simplify your life.

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