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"JIBO can’t wait to meet you."
July 16, 2014 11:53 AM   Subscribe

JIBO: The World's First Family Robot

Jibo's creator is Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, who is famous for the elfin robot Kismet.

The promotional video suggests that you regard Jibo as somewhere between an appliance and a family member. He is shown standing in for an absent relative at Thanksgiving dinner; tucking in a child and reading to her; letting an older woman know that someone will pick her up soon to go grocery shopping.

New York Times: "Although many homes now have camera-based security systems and web cameras, one challenge that the Jibo robot will face will be to persuade families to trust a device that has video and audio capabilities as well as the potential for being controlled remotely. Dr. Breazeal acknowledged the issue and said the Jibo developers were committed to 'best practices' in computer security."

Jibo is projected to ship in Winter of 2015, at a retail cost of $500.
posted by overeducated_alligator (82 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Holy shit, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop and that video turn into Robo-Crying Game
posted by wcfields at 11:56 AM on July 16 [6 favorites]


It's Jibo! The smartphone that can't fit in a pocket!
posted by Iridic at 12:02 PM on July 16 [19 favorites]


The promotional video suggests that you regard Jibo as somewhere between an appliance and a family member.

That's pretty much how the Jetsons treated Rosie, right? Except Jibo can't vacuum.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:02 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Creepiest thing I've seen all day. Still deep, deep, in the uncanny valley.

My guess is, in the real world, it'll be deep in the frustrating "what part of 'read email' do you not understand!!!" valley.
posted by sp160n at 12:03 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


"Excuse me, Patty... I ate all your Lipitor for fuel. Would you like me to order a refill?"
posted by Behemoth at 12:03 PM on July 16 [9 favorites]


The industrial design is excellent. The form is a perfect for receiving both hugs and baseball bats.
posted by hanoixan at 12:06 PM on July 16 [6 favorites]


Time for some Old Glory insurance.

Frankly, the problem with household robotics is not that they're devoid of personality. It's that they don't do enough useful stuff. Screw the voice and social bits, give me something that will ameliorate the cosmic pet hair background.
posted by The Gaffer at 12:08 PM on July 16 [11 favorites]


I thought this was a joke. Tell me this is a joke.

(I just saw the movie Her and this immediately reminded me of it.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:08 PM on July 16


Huh, I was expecting a link to this, but I remembered the name wrong.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:09 PM on July 16


Jibo's giving me the heebie-jeebies.
posted by Floydd at 12:12 PM on July 16


He is shown standing in for an absent relative at Thanksgiving dinner

No, thank you. If I want a bunch of screaming irrational hatemongers at Thanksgiving I can turn on cable news.
posted by winna at 12:13 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Can it do dishes? No? Not a family robot.
posted by sammyo at 12:13 PM on July 16 [9 favorites]


That is not far from what I'd imagined "The Moms" look like in Greg Bear's Anvil of Stars.

(Combine that and the hole in the earth with Forge of God and it's a creepy kind of SF day.)
posted by weston at 12:14 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I feel like I'm watching a movie that starts with this commercial playing on an old fashioned TV and then cuts to static and then smash cuts to a ruin ed New York City with the tattered banners JIBO KNOWS BEST flying in the sooty wind.
posted by The Whelk at 12:15 PM on July 16 [18 favorites]


Jibo reminds me of a three-dimensional and more intrusive Clippy.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:20 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Jibo reminds me of a three-dimensional and more intrusive Clippy.

"It looks like you're trying to have sex. Would you like me to help?"
posted by overeducated_alligator at 12:22 PM on July 16 [21 favorites]


Given: I think robots are basically bullshit and "robot-ness" is a cultural construct that encompass machines we don't understand that appear to react in a way vaguely related to how a human might react. This is a rapidly moving target; are phones robots? what about industrial assembly robots? a washing machine? a rice cooker?

Given: In a very fundamental way, I think the human-ness of robots is a costume that hides their natures. JIBO, for example, is essentially a mobile phone with some very clever vision software and impressive (to the point of potentially cheating) speech software. Surely as we become acclimated people will react to devices like this as they are rather than as what they desperately appear to be. This is, however, a loser's bet that I have made over and over in my career and lost nearly every time so really there's no reason to expect it to start winning now.

Given: The Media Lab is an unbelievably effective producer of demo videos but making a demo video of this functionality is way more straightforward than actually building effective UX (broadly construed) to do all the things they claim it will do. I say this as a graduate of the lab and someone who is just as guilty of feeding the demo/techjournalism/research complex (although never nearly this effectively).

Given: The economics of this are completely batty. They must be taking a wash on manufacturing this, $500 is way too cheap for what that is and the level of sophistication in the software seems to me to represent years of relatively speculative research work to make it robust and usable. Plus they clearly have raised money and this campaign is just a PR feather in their cap to justify further investment and market building because 100k won't make a dent in the costs associated with this product. This always irks me when companies do this.

I STILL SORT OF WANT ONE WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME PLEASE SEND HELP
posted by heresiarch at 12:23 PM on July 16 [15 favorites]


The "help us make a ton of money by 'building a community'" bit at the end is a bit annoying. If you want me to help you develop content or apps, then pay me.
posted by nerdler at 12:24 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


Nifty. I do remember, as a kid in the early 80's reading about a household robot named TOPO. I guess it never took off and they're all roaming the sewer systems.
posted by jonmc at 12:26 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Gotta start somewhere.
Glue it to a roomba and you're all set.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:26 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


Also, I don't see a bottle opener or joint rolling attachment. 'sup with that?
posted by jonmc at 12:27 PM on July 16 [6 favorites]


Funny, there was no footage of them lugging that thing from room to room as the family moved around... or was there one in every room? I guess that would be the ideal...

Let's see, three for the bedrooms, one for the kitchen for sure, one for the dining room, one for the living room, one sort of roving (so to speak... wait, that thing would fit on Roomba! I wonder if it would run off Roomba's battery?)

So that's $3,500... and the one thing it does that my phone doesn't is take video and pictures autonomously. Which I'm sure will be just as good as human pics... right?

I totally want to play with one and mount it on my Roomba and make it chase guests while screaming obscenities in various accents, but for $500, no thanks.
posted by Huck500 at 12:28 PM on July 16 [6 favorites]


Eeeeeeuuuuuuuuuuuugggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Its like there are uncanny valleys for movement, emotional response, and interation and its plumbing new depths in all three simultaneously.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:30 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


That's pretty much how the Jetsons treated Rosie, right? Except Jibo can't vacuum.

If we can make DJ Roomba happen, a JIBO vacuum can't be far behind.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:30 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


$500 is way too cheap for what that is and the level of sophistication in the software seems to me to represent years of relatively speculative research work to make it robust and usable

I'm a paranoiac, but suppose the price was subsidized by whichever rich, powerful [fill-in-the-blank] was ultimately harvesting all the data and audio/video recordings?
posted by overeducated_alligator at 12:30 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure how I feel about this.
posted by symbioid at 12:34 PM on July 16


Nifty. I do remember, as a kid in the early 80's reading about a household robot named TOPO. I guess it never took off and they're all roaming the sewer systems.

TOPO! I don't think they went anywhere but trade shows. When your coding options are Forth and Apple Basic, you've got a bit of a curve.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:34 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


"Hey Jibo, what time is it?"

"3 days, 12 hours and 14 minutes before the singularity, Grumpybear69."
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:34 PM on July 16 [8 favorites]


Still deep, deep, in the uncanny valley.

Either the term "uncanny valley" has gone through some significant concept-creep, or y know some very odd looking humans. Or is it the "uncanny valley" of attempts to look like Eve from Wall-E?
posted by yoink at 12:38 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Ask Siri, maybe she knows.
posted by yoink at 12:39 PM on July 16


"And you're never more than a click away from your helpful NSA surveillance officer!"
posted by briank at 12:41 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


Why not just save your money and put a pair of Google Glasses on one of these?
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:48 PM on July 16


Creepy as all get-out. I cannot think of a reason to want something like that in my house. I predict it will be as well adopted as AIBO was.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:52 PM on July 16


A recent episode of Takeshi Art Beat featured the work roboticist Tomotaka Takahashi. I couldn't find video for it, but you may be able to catch it on NHK World Service if you look.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:58 PM on July 16


The real problem is that when you ask Jibo to take a family picture, he takes it from that low angle atop the coffee table, and everyone looks ten years older and bedewlapped, and have to box him back up for a refund.
posted by mittens at 1:00 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this might be weird, but this is by definition not in the uncanny valley.

Jibo has not been constructed to look human.
posted by Sokka shot first at 1:01 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


"Urban Dictionary! What does Jibo mean?"
1. jibo
really freakin' cool.
"that kid is so fuckin' jibo man"
"A little vague. Any other possibilities?"
2. jibo
adj. Jibo represents the spirit of an individual that intices them to get wild and crazy. not giving a fuck bout anything getting crunk to a point beyond any kind of logic.
That dude is jibo as fuck
"Better! But can we get even more specific?"
3. Jibo
Jibo is another word for Jibbit or Weed. It's very popular in the east of switzerland.
Guy 1: "Ey bringsch mo no en fuffi Jibo"?
Guy 2: "Voll easy"

"Merci vilmal."
posted by Iridic at 1:01 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


There needs to be an "uncanny valley"-equivalent term for attempts at human-style interaction. Something like "I will punch your fucking robot face valley," but perhaps more concise.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:05 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Yeah, "uncanny valley" is maybe the wrong term for it, but there is something about the little girl going all "good night robot! I love you robot!" and it reading a bedtime story that does feel like it's a commercial from a science fiction movie.

From the vid -

"What if technology actually treated you like a human being?" but they try to make their point by treating the technology like a human being.

"What if technology made you feel closer to the ones you love?" I think there is an understandable uneasiness about using technology for your feelings. You could potentially bill the long-distance telephone this way. If your loved ones are in another city, the phone gives you the capability to hear their voice. But a lot of tech marketing likes to skip the capability and go directly to how you're supposed to feel, like a Buzzfeed title telling you what this listicle is supposed to make you feel.

"What if technology helped you like a partner rather than simply being a tool?" Don't knock tools. Tools are pretty great. We've come a long way with tools. But tools are measured in terms of their capabilities. And again I think the difference between partner and tool is as much about how do I treat it, rather than how it treats me. It's very presumptuous to tell me that an iPad with a neck is going to be my partner. Just showing up and saying, "Here's your new partner," makes me feel like the loose-cannon cop who plays by his own rules. I don't need a partner. I work alone.
posted by RobotHero at 1:09 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Yes, RobotHero. Yourself* excepted, robots are tools and to humanize them is pointless, impairs work, and is slightly obscene. It impairs work in that humans don't need help finding patterns that don't exist and obfuscates how the tool functions, and it's obscene in that it dilutes and trivializes the regard we have with each other.

*and Danneel and Giskard, of course.
posted by The Gaffer at 1:24 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


RobotHero: "Yeah, "uncanny valley" is maybe the wrong term for it, but there is something about the little girl going all "good night robot! I love you robot!" and it reading a bedtime story that does feel like it's a commercial from a science fiction movie."

Perhaps "skeuomorphic affect."
posted by adamrice at 1:32 PM on July 16


Given: I think robots are basically bullshit and "robot-ness" is a cultural construct that encompass machines we don't understand that appear to react in a way vaguely related to how a human might react. This is a rapidly moving target; are phones robots? what about industrial assembly robots? a washing machine? a rice cooker?

Elevators are robots we walk inside of.
posted by jeremias at 1:35 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Doesn't this violate our "no active fundraiser" rule?
posted by HuronBob at 1:48 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


It takes your picture

It knows how to tell time

It isn't grumpy

Best place to put these is the DMV I think
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:52 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


WHY DOES IT BLINK LIKE AN ENORMOUS EYE
posted by elizardbits at 1:55 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I understand the term "uncanny valley" to extended beyond appearance to include any time something inorganic tries to emulate human beings.

So for Jibo,

- the voice, which is as close to human as they can make it at the current technology and price, and

-the motion of the top bit, which is clearly trying to emulate a human turning their face and attention towards you.

I've heard that Dr. Breazeal is very talented, but I've been creeped out by her work for a long time.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:56 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


My first reaction was "OMG, that's so cute!" Then I come here and find I'm the only one.

Yes, if the Robot Overlords are kawaii, I'm betraying you all.
posted by _paegan_ at 1:58 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Anyway I don't have sound on this computer so I don't know if the video addresses this potential use, but I could see it maybe being a good tool for some non-neurotypical people to learn how to cope with making eye contact.
posted by elizardbits at 1:59 PM on July 16


I'll stick with the talking moose in the corner of my screen, thank you.
posted by sonascope at 2:00 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


JIBO NIGHTTIME MODE INITIALIZED .........................

EVENT: MOTION SENSOR 01 TRIGGER: $PERSONDETECT

RUNNING $FAMILY FACIALRECOG

MATCHES NONE

ACTIVATING MODULE: STANDURGROUND

TARGETING>>>>>>>
posted by leotrotsky at 2:01 PM on July 16 [5 favorites]


This hits a bunch of creepy buttons for me. It's not the uncanny valley, but it's a camera that can recognize you and watch... and stare... and talk to you... and it has internet access. BigDog and other robots we've seen lately haven't given me this reaction.

I am both shy and a genuine introvert, and I feel like I'd have to be "on" to be in front of one of these things. I wouldn't want one in my home on a regular basis and I definitely wouldn't want one of these things to see me naked.

Maybe this is the future and maybe we'll get used to it, but right now, it's just creeping me out.

I used to think my mother-in-law was a bit weird for being afraid of robots, but now I can sympathize.
posted by Foosnark at 2:16 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I'd buy one. And if they can give it a snarky personality upgrade and the ability to watch bad movies with me and make humorous comments, I'll buy two.
posted by valkane at 2:20 PM on July 16 [10 favorites]


I wonder about exploits... like sending it messages which it reads, then hears as a voice command. "Jibo, take a photo and attach it in a reply to this message."

Wasn't there a similar problem with XBox commercials that demonstrated people turning off an XBox with a voice command?
posted by Foosnark at 2:24 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I wonder about exploits...

Griefers have already hacked into baby monitors to terrify children. I can't imagine what they could show that little kid in her blanket fort, if they hacked a JIBO.

The robot misses the Uncanny Valley but falls squarely into the HAL 9000 Valley.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:32 PM on July 16


Elevators are robots we walk inside of that eat us whole and regurgitate us mostly unharmed.
posted by yoink at 2:46 PM on July 16 [6 favorites]


If it worked as advertised, the picture taking part is pretty cool. Also, I can see this being good for video conference calls (again IF it worked), since most of the time you spend fiddling around with the technology until you say fuck it, let's just do this over the phone.
posted by sfkiddo at 3:15 PM on July 16


oof, heresiarch, I thought we were friends!

From the perspective of a robotics engineer (and one who also some day hopes to make consumer robots):

(0) ::ctrl+f "pixar":: No? Really? I'm the first to say this totally makes me think of the Pixar lamp?

(1) Nice video. Not convinced that the shown level of conversational functionality is anywhere near reality, which is disappointing, but that's how demo vids go.

(2) I've noticed that the "if we build it, the devs and apps will come" attitude is currently highly, highly prevalent among robotics startups that come out of academic research. There is a firm belief in that community that robots are the PCs of our age and if we just give smart people enough platforms, the "killer app" will somehow spontaneously emerge and make the hardware platform a massive success. I think for a specifically generic yet versatile hardware platform that may be true, but I'm beginning to find it really tiresome when companies release limited platforms (like a $400,000 PR2 that moves at the speed of cold molasses, or a desktop robot with a single screen and no manipulators) and then claim that the applications will be discovered by the market. "Oh, your robot and demo video look great! I want one! Wait, you mean if I want it to be useful like it appears in the video, I either have to write the code myself, or wait a few years until someone else does? Ehhh fuck you." Yes, hardware startups are hard. No, I don't consider this an excuse to effectively only release hardware and wait for everyone else to find your applications for you. I'd much rather see more single-purpose robots for sale right now (example, example) than to be in this frustrating valley of "lots of robots for sale, either as toys [because we couldn't think of any other application for our nifty hardware idea] or dev platforms [because we want it to do EVERYTHING]" that we're in right now.

(3) Regarding the economic model, I expect that they will indeed take a loss on the hardware, and in the style of Amazon and its Kindle, make up the difference in a cut of all the third-party apps it's going to take to make this thing successful at all.

(4) I do think the picture-taking thing is clever. Robot-aided selfies! I like it! And if I did have the motivation to write utility into an expensive electronic device I'd purchased, I'd probably do some super awesome two-way baby monitor thing (says the pregnant lady who is pondering this very problem as we speak).

(5) And if I were going to upgrade this, I'd make it mobile. Whoever mentioned "heh, they didn't show the families lugging it around their houses" is absolutely right. I also think that some low-hanging-fruit applications for this, like video chat and reminder systems, are particularly suited to senior citizens and having the robot come to them, rather then waiting for them to be near the robot, I think is critical.

(6) I would name mine Jarvis.
posted by olinerd at 4:40 PM on July 16 [7 favorites]


The robot's not in the uncanny valley. The video is, insofar as the tone, production quality, and writing feel slightly off from big brand tech advertising, and it therefore feels creepy.
posted by condour75 at 5:11 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Also, isn't this thing a bit like what you'd get if one of those Chumby digital beanbags humped a Keepon and they sent the offspring to an finishing school run by the Little Sisters Of Siri?
posted by sonascope at 5:21 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Why does it make noises the Portal gunbots make
posted by angerbot at 5:27 PM on July 16




"Wasn't there a similar problem with XBox commercials that demonstrated people turning off an XBox with a voice command?"--Foosnark

Yes indeed. If you watched a commercial on your xbox (or if someone online yelled loud enough) "Xbox Turn Off" it would shut down.
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 5:36 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I don't think we're that far apart on this olinerd. I totally agree that this is artfully done, and I don't even think they do the most egregious version of "build a platform and they will come." They're telling a bunch of discrete stories that I expect the first party launch to come with - pictures, email alert, telepresence, security, and food ordering would be a totally fine first set. Someone is going to crack the market on this and I see no reason why it's not going to be these folks. Clearly this is closer to the mark than anything we've seen so far.

I just object to the weird robot hysteria. This is not a robot. It's a connected device for the phone that happens to have some kind of unusual servos inside to make its appearance change. Or one of those conference room cameras on servos with a screen attached. I think that's enough for certain sorts of people and the cuteness is a great bonus. But to put this on the spectrum with Rosie and Data is bonkers.
posted by heresiarch at 6:15 PM on July 16


one challenge that the Jibo robot will face will be to persuade families to trust a device that has video and audio capabilities as well as the potential for being controlled remotely.

Found-footage is kind of played-out as a movie trope by now, but I'd totally watch the creepy robot variant.
posted by kagredon at 6:37 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


Wow the scenes with the little girl are super creepy
posted by Bwithh at 7:40 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


If you watched a commercial on your xbox (or if someone online yelled loud enough) "Xbox Turn Off" it would shut down.

So what does it do when you listen to this?
posted by elizardbits at 7:42 PM on July 16


What does the narrator say when the bachelor bro gets home and Jibo tells him he just got lucky with a girl who's dialing in? "Jibo is a great wink"? wingman? Wing Co(mmander)?
posted by Bwithh at 7:43 PM on July 16


Wingman.
posted by yoink at 8:34 PM on July 16


I like how it got a sock at the end and was all like, "Master gave Jibo clothes, Jibo is free now."
posted by not that girl at 9:00 PM on July 16 [7 favorites]


Not convinced that the shown level of conversational functionality is anywhere near reality

Yeah, this seems that it will be the make or break functionality. Someone I knew always sent me completely crazy-pants texts: they didn't make any sense, had weird words and punctuation, etc. I finally discovered that she was dictating all of her texts with Siri. No wonder she didn't make any sense.

Also, I don't know what this Jibo will make of the continuous "Meow. Meow. MEOW" in my household. Jibo will probably start WWIII.
posted by sfkiddo at 9:33 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


Wow the scenes with the little girl are super creepy

In one of the JIBO-perspective shots, it has targeted the child's head in the photo square and it knows her name is Julie. How does this not end in Jibo murdering that entire family, including grandma and the pizza eating uncle, so that it can play with Julie forevvvvvvver or at least until Julie gets old enough that the facial recognition can only identify her as an intruder?

The wolf is in the fucking house with you, Julie. The wolf is reading you a story. The wolf built you a blanket fort. Julie. Get in the blanket fort, Julie. Get in the blanket fort. Julie. Get in the blanket fort.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:28 PM on July 16 [8 favorites]


I like how it got a sock at the end and was all like, "Master gave Jibo clothes, Jibo is free now."
posted by not that girl at 9:00 PM on July 16 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


To be honest, when I first saw that bit, I assumed it was lingerie not a sock
posted by Bwithh at 12:49 AM on July 17


The robot misses the Uncanny Valley but falls squarely into the HAL 9000 Valley.

It may be headed for the HAL Valley, but it's coming from the direction of the Furby Ravine.
posted by sfenders at 4:50 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


It doesn't seem all that sophisticated to me, yet turning to look at people humanizes it enough that it would seem cruel to knock it down and watch it struggle to face people.

(I learned of this alternate robo-Turing Test from an episode of Siskel and Ebert in which they reviewed Short Circuit 2. Siskel wasn't sold on the robot as a character. Paraphrase:

Ebert: "Well, when they were beating the robot up, did you care about it?
Siskel: [pause] "Yes."
Ebert: "Then, the movie worked.")
posted by ignignokt at 5:02 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


When the parents are away, and the youth are getting wasted in the living room, will they enjoy humiliating the family Jibo?
posted by bendybendy at 6:16 AM on July 17


All I ask is that I can replace the face-construct with Gerty.
posted by symbioid at 8:15 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


heresiarch:
the cuteness is a great bonus
No, the cuteness is the entire problem with the thing. If it just did its job, it would be fine. As soon as it starts to try to interact "socailly", it is creepy and, yes, dangerous.

Human beings respond to that kind of manipulation. To think we don't would be foolish. And the result of that is human beings being maneuvered into all kinds of fake "relationships" with the corporate entities that have carefully crafted the behavior of the devices. That includes misplaced trust as well as lots of other problems.

Look at the way they think it should interact with a child. If that actually works, it's horrible. Because the next thing you know, somebody will find a way to use it to manipulate that child. It probably won't be as blatant as making her beg for the next toy. But it WILL be used to affect her attitudes and affinities. Maybe even in ways the people writing the app don't understand themselves.

... and I could even see people's loyalties to these toys interfering with their loyalties to actual humans. Which might be right for Rosie or Data, but is definitely not right for this thing, precisely because it's not on that spectrum.

I hope these people crash and burn, and I hope that their spectacular failure commercially discredits the idea of "social robotics" for decades. Because I believe that, with enough work, it can be made to work technically, and that is not a good thing.
posted by Hizonner at 8:24 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Gonna get one of these and ask it to open the pod bay doors.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:54 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Human beings respond to that kind of manipulation. To think we don't would be foolish. And the result of that is human beings being maneuvered into all kinds of fake "relationships" with the corporate entities that have carefully crafted the behavior of the devices. That includes misplaced trust as well as lots of other problems.

But you might as well say the same thing about drawing pictures or telling stories. Yeah, those things manipulate us. Sometimes they do so for good, sometimes for not so good, sometimes to sell product. It seems silly to object to the technology in itself simply because some people will use it to bad ends.
posted by yoink at 9:18 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Isn't this the precursor to the robot 'GERTY' from the movie 'Moon'? I mean, if we dangle poor Jibo from a ceiling mounted arm, he can move all around the house flashing emoji at you.
posted by HannoverFist at 4:05 PM on July 17


I keep returning to this question: "What if technology actually treated you like a human being?"

What does it mean for technology to treat you like a human being? Does my bread machine treat me like a human being? Does a car treat me like a human being? Am I supposed to feel dehumanized because I control these things by pushing buttons or turning wheels?

I guess a technology needs enough autonomy for the question to make sense. We wouldn't even ask whether my refrigerator treats me like a human being. It doesn't treat me like anything, it keeps my food cold.



In terms of the demonstrated use of the Jibo, I can see some value behind "emotional intelligence" for a messaging centre. Like, something that can tell when I don't want to be interrupted, and for whom will I make an exception.

Though now that I'm thinking about it, the "wingman" scenario seems almost anachronistic. The Jibo gives him his voice messages as he walks in the door? Does he not have a cell phone or does he just prefer to wait until he gets home?
posted by RobotHero at 7:39 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


> Surely as we become acclimated people will react to devices like this as they are rather than as what they desperately appear to be.

I tend to make the opposite bet, with certain caveats. For example, my mother thinks of Siri as a HAL-like intelligence that is inexplicably stupid about many things. She doesn't see Siri the way I see it: a natural language interface to the PIM apps Apple has written and to a handful of data services Apple deigns to work with.*

Apple is (of course) no help in demystifying Siri. Commercials portray a conversation with Siri that is as polished as any demo Steve Jobs had scripted. The jokes reinforce the idea that Siri is a friendly HAL. Apple has no prominent page on the limitations of Siri. Even on an Apple support page that gives more detail about Siri, Apple merely lists the apps that Siri works with. It's up to the customer to understand that Siri is dumb, except for these apps and not that Siri is smart, especially with respect to these apps.

It's up to my mother to spend time learning about the computer industry standards and business deals that have brought about Siri. For example, it's up to her to understand the limitations of NLP & AI in the industry as a whole and as it is implemented in this particular Apple product, so that she can understand why "How is Pam doing? Let's give her a call." is an impossible request for Siri but "Please call Pam on her cell phone." is possible.

I do understand these limitations and have realistic expectations. But I don't blame my mother one bit. It's entirely reasonable for the customer to expect a product's presentation to be a truthful demonstration of its capabilities. No person among us is fully conversant with every single piece of technology he or she uses in a day. In short, I bet people would internalize JIBO as a robot that's good at some things and inexplicably bad at others. I don't bet people would think of JIBO as a phone-with-a-face that is naturally limited in capabilities.

* IMO getting an understanding of the companies that created a product is the quickest way to build a good mental model of how that product works. Conway's Law proves itself time and time again.
posted by Monochrome at 4:05 PM on August 2


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