Social Robot Delayed; New Door To Advertising Waits

Creating for the Internet of Things at scale can be tougher than it looks.

In somewhat of a setback for thousands of consumers awaiting delivery of a new robot for their home, shipping of the Jibo social robot is delayed and international investors won’t be getting one.

I spent some time with one of the robot’s designers a few months ago after a Jibo presentation at a Boston conference, as I wrote about here at the time (New Doorways To Advertising: Meet Jibo, The Social Robot).

Back in August 2014, Jibo posted the following on its Facebook page:

“You may now pre-order JIBO for shipment to the US, Canada, EU (all 28 countries), Norway, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Mexico.”

That was then. Now it turns out that the Boston-based company is having some development difficulties. This is their posting from early April:

“To our Indiegogo early adopters, we want to thank you for your ongoing support and patience. We are making great progress on Jibo, but we won’t start delivering him in the March/April timeframe as previously communicated. We know this is disappointing. We want to ensure your experience with your Jibo is amazing, and we need more time than we anticipated to achieve this goal.”

In late April, Jibo again updated its supporters and investors in a video stating that shipping would be delayed until October.

The company has raised well over $3 million, much of it from crowdfunding and a few million from Dentsu.

Based on what I saw at the Jibo presentation in back in May, the relatively small devices can recognize faces, detect moods as well as learn and self-adjust over time.

Unlike Amazon’s highly popular Alexa, which recognizes voice and executes commands, such as ‘turn on the lights,’ ‘play music’ or ‘order me a…’ whatever, Jibo is designed to become sort of a family member.

It can do the normal things that voice-controlled, central command hubs typically do, but it essentially has character. “It’s not a remote control, but lives in your home,” Blake Kotelly, vice president of design at Jibo, told me at the time.

The relatively small, table-top robot has a ‘face,’ a screen that moves to look up, down and sideways while recognizing who it’s facing. The screen movements and interactions are synched to voice and surrounding activity.

After the U.S. shipping delay, now there are issues with international orders. This is the latest note from Jibo to investors and supporters:

“After exploring all the options, we have come to the conclusion that we will not be able to deliver Jibo to your country. The reason is clear: Jibo won’t function up to our standards in your country. We know this is disappointing news and that many of you have been looking forward to Jibo’s arrival since our campaign first launched, and for that we’re truly sorry. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate your support of Jibo and our vision, and to do right by you, we will issue full refunds to all pre-order customers in your country.”

Like much of the Internet of Things, speed of communications is a core requirement.

For devices such as Jibo, this means the voice recognition and responses has to occur in relative real time. With Siri, Cortana, Google and others, consumers are gaining high expectations for instant responses.

This can mean a lot of computing power always connected to the thing that a consumer is interacting with.

That thing also is opening a gateway for marketing and advertising. That, too, will have to be in real time.