Did you ever want your very own R2D2 in your very house? Those fantasies are quickly becoming a reality. The age of robotics are exploding faster than we realize, and are growing exponentially in the 21st century. Developers of these newfangled creations are not only programming them to perform certain task, but are building them to learn from human beings and adapt to their way of living. With that being said, are we at that point in which our families and friends can have robots inside their homes?
Cynthia Breazeal; a M.I.T professor and expert in social robotics, created a family friendly and adorable looking social robot known as Jibo. It is designed to foster special moments, be your personal companion, and politely give you suggestions. Jibo can take pictures of family outings, connects to mobile devices for video chat, and relates to anyone at an emotional level. The prototype was shown in its promotional video of summer 2014, and it has over 8 million views on YouTube today. Jibo is expected to have a public release in summer 2016. But even with all of its distinctive features, how is Jibo a pop culture phenomenon?
The creation of Jibo was inspired from movie adaptations of friendly and helpful robots. In the promo video, it shows a variety of scenes from movies that used friendly robots. The robots in this montage was R2D2 from “Star Wars”, Rosie the robot from “The Jetsons”, and wall-e from Disney’s “WALL-E”. During the montage, the narrator tells us that
“We dreamt of it for years, and now he’s finally here. And he’s not just an aluminum shelf, not is he just a 3 axis motor system. He’s not even just a connective device. He’s….one of the family. “
It is referring to those previously mentioned robots that many of us wish were real. This closing remark from the video reinforces the idea that people fantasized over robots that not only comes to one aid, but connects to humans with emotive responses. Because of those emotive responses, it allows Jibo to become like a human being. Not an actual human being, but really close to one. “It’s really important for technology to be humanized,” says Cynthia Breazeal from the New York Times article A Robot with a Little Humanity, “the next stage in computing, the next wave, emotion.”
However, with so much that Jibo is trying to offer, is it too good to be true? Is the hype for Jibo and similar social robots a little too exaggerated?
Millions of viewers were so over-joyed by Jibo’s functionality when the video launched on “YouTube”. This video was a pure example of introducing new technologies that brings out the fascinations in its viewers. These audience members become so intrigued by the videos first impressions, and becomes enlightened by Jibo’s lively responses.
Mark Federman; a Chief strategist from the Mcluhan Program of Culture and technology, wrote an article known as What is the Meaning of The Medium is the Message?. Throughout the article, Federman deciphers and interprets the meaning of Marshal Mcluhan’s(a canadian philospher from the 1960s who studied communication theory) book Understanding Media. He states that:
“McLuhan tells us that a “message” is, “the change of scale or pace or pattern” that a new invention or innovation “introduces into human affairs.” (McLuhan 8) Note that it is not the content or use of the innovation, but the change in inter-personal dynamics that the innovation brings with it.”
What these means is that any invention and innovation has to appeal to the general public by feeling real and natural. If they are able to do that, then audience members will be dazzled by it. For the Jibo video, the message it was portraying was that Jibo’s responses will feel natural when someone talks to him or even ask him for some suggestions. That in itself already boosts our trust in this adorable looking robot.
But on the other hand, we have to be aware that this is just a promotional video and that Jibo is a working prototype.
To further explain, CNN gave its opinion on Jibo in an article entitled Move over Siri, the Jibo robot is coming. It states that:
“There is, however, much Jibo can’t do yet, so keep your expectations in check. Jibo does not think independently. He is not going to be your personal butler, or dinner date.”
The video above is from CNN’s article on Jibo
Even Cynthia’s team of developers knew that the video delivered a lot of features, and not “… everything in the video will necessarily be there at launch…(From Jibo’s website under FAQ’s)” . So it is still too early to tell what Jibo is fully capable of. But, that doesn’t mean we should give up our hopes up yet. We’ll have to wait and see if it can deliver its uniqueness in 2016.
Robots like the Jibo are slowly becoming a reality. Today, having a population of robots is still in early development. It is too soon to release them all across the US, or even across the globe. However, there are brilliant minds that are experts in robotics and are trying to implement their knowledge in creative ways. Researchers and scientists are trying to teach robots to understand humans, and adjust to certain real-life situations. Ten to twenty years from now, we will be able to live in a world where humans and robots cohabitate.