Is that Kenny?No, stop binge-watching South Park.
This is Jibo. We know it looks like a cross between South Park’s Kenny and Wall-E’s EVE and reminds us of Luxo, Jr the Pixar lamp in the way it moves. All very friendly animated character associations that won’t give you nightmares when Jibo blinks to life.
How is it going to fit into my family?For one, Jibo isn’t a one-trick bot. It’s outfitted with two hi-res cameras and full body touch sensors to recognise faces and react to your touch. It'll help out around the house by fielding calls and messages, issuing timely reminders, and connecting family members via their different devices.
An overseas relative can video chat via Jibo which automatically swivels to face whoever is talking. Have a family event? Have Jibo take the photos so no one will ever be missing from the family album again (except poor Jibo). No time to read a story to little Becca? Have Jibo take over.
There’s even more planned for Jibo with developers being able to build apps (activity-tracking, games, and the like) that will stitch the fabric of your family together via unthreatening little Jibo.
So essentially, it’s a virtual assistant made physical?Not quite. Jibo’s a social robot. It’s a little more present than Siri, cuter than Asimo and as a result, a whole more likeable. With a display taking the space of its face, a single animated winky eye does more to express emotion than an artificial face could.
While Jibo can’t move, it weighs just 2.7kg to be easily moved from room to room. There’s an emotional bit to all of this in the way Jibo swivels its two-part body to greet you when you come home and in the tone of its voice, making it seem more than just a soulless machine.
I want a robot friend!Get on it quick then, you’re not alone. Its Indiegogo campaign has already raised over three times the required amount with 30 days left to go still.
Right now, the Jibo is still available for US$499 (S$620) with free shipping to the US and Canada. If you’re located somewhere else, you’ll have to add US$50 (S$65) for shipping. It’s due to be shipped in 2015 which is still a while away, but you can use that time to prepare that underground bunker in case Jibo goes rogue.