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‘Jibo’ wants to be 1st ‘social’ robot for the home

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Home virtual assistants powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) are fast becoming a part of our everyday lives. Amazon Echo/Alexa devices, Apple’s Siri, Google Now & Microsoft Cortana, listen & talk to a lot of us. They do stuff like make calls, play our favorite music or TV shows & buy things for us Online.

Now Jibo goes a bit further by providing a more robot-like, physically interactive interface, including a “face”, a moving “head” that follows your voice around & does face recognition for all your family members.

Jibo was originally announced 3 years ago as part of a crowdfunding project on Indiegogo. The Boston-based company was founded by MIT professor & UX researcher Cynthia Breazeal & raised more than US $3 million to create a small robot virtual assistant for your home with an adorable personality that could recognize different voices & faces.

Check out this video:

The device was just released & is available from the product Website for US$ 899. Jibo is somewhat limited when you compare it to some of the virtual assistants that have been around longer. It doesn’t do basic stuff that we’re accustomed to, like make phone calls, give you reminders or queue up music.

Jibo’s makers claim that all this functionality & a lot more will soon be added via software upgrades. They claim that the competing products are limited to spewing sounds from their speakers & are nowhere near as cute. They don’t gyrate their bodies when you ask them to dance or crack jokes, for instance.

The head of this assistant is round & swivels around like it’s checking out the room & it looks at you with its 5-inch screen eye. It’s also got a base & a middle segment that move in sync with the head to give the impression that it’s “alive.” The head will press back against your hand when you touch it & the eye turns into a smile & it purrs when it’s happy.

Jibo has 2 front facing cameras that can ID up to 16 different people. When it detects movement, it’ll turn its head towards whoever’s talking & make like it’s listening. It will then scan the person’s face & greet the family member using his/her name.

It can also do things like autonomously take photos at a party, or take group photos if you tell it to, & it will read you the latest news or sports scores. Of course, it also does more “traditional” virtual assistant things, like tell you the weather, set up alarms, & answer impromptu questions from both adults & children. It even lets you control some iOT devices using IFTTT commands.

Image Credit: Jibo

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