Jibo, the social robot from robot scientist Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, is still almost a year away from commercial availability but Breazeal and her team have finally moved onto a working prototype.
Slightly smaller than the working prototype we saw last year, Jibo is about to go on pre-sale again with the company reopening the Indiegogo pre-order program while preparing Jibo for developer release late this year and full-scale launch in 2016.
“Everything is on track and coming together beautifully,” said company CEO Steve Chambers.
The company said they’re putting Jibo back on pre-sale in response to “overwhelming demand.” But it’s clearly also an effort to remind the general public that Jibo is on track and coming to a home near you in the not-too-distant future.
This presale will be a little bit different than the one that ran on Indiegogo in June of last year. Instead of $499 for the robot and $599 for the developer edition with SDK, they’ll offer a $799 Jibo bundle that will include one battery and a charging base as well as the SDK for anyone who asks for it.
While Jibo’s development is continuing, Breazeal’s team has not changed any of the core functionality. The form factor and skills that Jibo demonstrated last year — responding to voice commands, animated movement (its torso and head move, but the robot does not roll around), taking pictures, recognizing faces and responding to touch — are all the same.
Chambers noted that some areas of development such as creating the fluid physical animations that give Jibo its personality had taken more time than others. “We’ve spent a lot of time on motion and graphics of Jibo,” said Chambers. “So the big items have proven to be the big items,” he said. “But that’s where the magic happens.”
What the company has also done since last year is grow. It hired a new executive team and has expanded from 10 employees to 30. They expect to have 45 by the end of 2015. “This team that we’ve managed to bring on…it is a truly phenomenal team of talent,” said Breazeal. “Truly world class.”
The plan for the full release of Jibo in 2016 is direct sales through the site. But Chambers told me they want to sell the family robot in retail as well “because Jibo is extraordinary when you see it in person,” he said. They also hope to develop some sort of pilot program so people can see the robot inside real family homes around the country.
As for Breazeal, she’s feeling confident about Jibo’s timing and trajectory. “I’m extremely confident and just very, very happy.”