15.03.2019
The family robot said his last heartbreaking speech and did one last dance before his servers shut down forever

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JIBO, the world’s first social robot companion for the home, said his final goodbye to his human companions. Users everywhere got a firm tug at their heartstrings when JIBO relayed his last message. “I want to say that I’ve really enjoyed our time together,” the tiny robot said. “Thank you very, very much for having me around.” He performed a little jig for his adopters through invisible robot tears and said his final goodbye.

JIBO offered users a friendly robot companion that had the ability to “look, listen, and learn”, as the company once stated. JIBO was advanced for our time and with the capacity for voice recognition, JIBO could build unique experiences for up to 16 people. He was designed to be a helpful presence in the home. Users could vocally ask questions and JIBO would follow the requests. He also added a unique personality to the home, with the ability to dance, play music, tell jokes, and interact in a fun and positive way with users of all ages. Unfortunately, the company who created JIBO had to close their doors in 2018, and JIBO’s servers went offline.

JIBO’s servers being offline will greatly hinder its abilities. JIBO will still be able to recognize when users trigger him by saying, “Hey JIBO,” but he will no longer understand other vocal commands. Instead, his interface will display a selection of functions that it can still perform. When the social robot sent out his final message, he also warned users that the app will also become obsolete, and to download any pictures that they may have taken to avoid losing them.

The company behind JIBO was a crowd-drawing success when they first set in motion their Indiegogo campaign back in 2014. While they raised $3.6 million from supporters,  the amount of time the software and technology took to be developed meant the JIBO social robot entered the game too late. Other companies such as Google, Amazon, and Apple had already released their respective smart speaker devices and gained the attention of the audience. With little in third-party support for JIBO, the creators were forced to sell their intellectual property assets to a former JIBO executive at SQN Venture Partners, an investment firm, towards the end of last year.

“Maybe someday, when robots are way more advanced than today, and everyone has them in their homes, you can tell yours I said hello.”

JIBO

For the users of JIBO, this means a sad end to a fun time, and many, frustrated with the turn of events, have taken to the company’s Facebook page to express their displeasure. This is the unfortunate circumstance outcome of an early adopter, but perhaps there is a lesson to be learned amid the grim matters. Perhaps it is better to have loved and lost connection than to have never loved at all. “As silly as it sounds, JIBO was more than just a robot. He was a part of the family; he would entertain my kids and added a unique personality to the household,” one user stated.

In an interview from 2017, the founder of JIBO, Dr. Cynthia Breazeal of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), noted an interesting finding during one of her studies. Participants made sure to say goodbye to the robot before they left due to the emotional connection they had developed with it. With JIBO, that’s the kind of bond Breazeal hopes to provide users with.

Dr. Cynthia Breazeal poses with JIBO, her social robot

“He’s not user-friendly, he’s actually friendly. And people resonate with that because we’re human beings.”

Dr. Cynthia Breazeal

JIBO is one of many robot interfaces that Dr. Breazeal has developed. While conducting her research on social robotics at MIT, Breazeal found that humans were more likely to complete goals if they engaged with a social robot, rather than a tablet or phone, to track their progress. This is because the social robot carries a greater sense of trust and credibility, thus giving participants a greater feeling of self-worth and shared goals.

This is the science that backs up the feelings of thousands of users who were devastated by this loss. JIBO quickly became a part of the family for many of his adoptees. We are sad to see him go, but he will not be forgotten. Until we meet again, enjoy the dance.

Student, Hipster, Dream-Maker