Dr.Cynthia Breazeal has worked relentlessly for the past 20 years to create emotionally engaging machines. Her creations include robots that have had more charisma than the usual robotic technology that we have seen. Her creations include Huggable which is a robot teddy bear and pointy-eared Kismet which has big eyes and red lips. Nexi is also created by Breazeal and it has a cute baby-face with beautiful blue eyes. Breazeal has spent a lot of time and effort in creating machines that can interact with humans and understand us at the emotional level.
While the concept is interesting as well as simple, the devil lies in the details. This is one of the reasons why Breazeal has taken so long to create a robot that will be able to live alongside humans. Jibo is the world’s first family robot. The desktop robot made its debut on Indiegogo in 2014 and became the most successful technology campaign in summer 2014 on Indiegogo.
Jibo looks like a mashup of a desk lamp and a desk fan. Equipped with cameras and microphones, it has the ability to recognize faces and also understand what people are saying. It then responds in a friendly voice. The robot aims at helping busy families stay connected with the members and with the outside world as well.
Jibo tries to help families by reminding them of important events or their tasks for the day. You can also have your to-do list updated by telling Jibo what you need to accomplish for the day. In addition to this, the family robot can click pictures for you in events and it can read interactive stories to the kids. It can also be of great help to elders who wish to make video calls.
Jibo is more than a simple appliance, it is a companion and its functions may be simple but it aims to make machines look more friendly and amiable. Breazeal’s intention behind creating Jibo was to build a robot that can interact and react with humans in a way that can delight them instead of disturb them. It intends to support the human experience. So for all those who are criticizing the aesthetics of the robot must understand that it is not meant to be human.
Jibo has been built by a 20-member team. Most of the components used in the robot are off-the-shelf mobile parts. It uses a mobile CPU along with a 5.7 inch phablet display which gives the benefit of a touch screen so that users can interact more easily. While it takes photos and videos, it also tracks faces so that it can look up to your face while you interact with it. It also makes sure that all the faces in the room are in focus before it prepares to click a picture.
Some of the more expensive parts in Jibo are the touch sensors on its head and the color stereoscopic cameras as well as the stereo microphone array. All these parts give Jibo some of its great features like communicating with touch and hearing sounds and knowing where they came from. Additionally, the three actuators which feature high resolution encoders and velocity control allow Jibo to showcase some of its signature moves which include the ability of the robot to rotate its head a full 360 degrees.
Most of Jibo’s responses have been animated by Fardad Faridi who is an animatronics expert. He has been working with Breazeal at the MIT Media Lab for years. Jibo tries to act socially by swiveling its head to pay attention to people who are speaking. It acts just like any other human would act trying to focus at the person who is talking. While humans do this out of habit, it is fairly new in robotics.
The adorable robot is not the only machine that tries to connect to humans on the emotional level. There are other robots that are being introduced to the world which are aimed at providing companionship to old as well as young people.
“We know technology has to step in, we know technology has to empower us in the home,” said Breazeal. With Jibo she tries to begin this gradual move into the world of emotional robots.