I knew Jibo was onto something when I he managed to coax a laugh from my tech-skeptic partner in the other room. I’d been in the middle of setting up the companion robot’s voice recognition system, repeating his trigger phrase six times in a row so that he could learn who was talking to him. “Now say “Hey Jibo” 400 more times,” the robot told me, before quickly adding “I’m only kidding” and pirouetting giddily. It got a chuckle from next door, and gave me my first glimpse of how home robotics might well wriggle and wise-crack their way into our hearts.
It’s not been as smooth a path to market as the Jibo team initially hoped. The company, founded by MIT roboticist Cynthia Breazeal, missed several of its shipping goals, then dramatically reduced its launch expectations from a global release to North America alone. Turns out, building your own voice service, along with the animated robot on which it runs, is harder than you might think.
In-between then and now, of course, we’ve seen a surge in voice-controlled personal assistants.
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