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Need help with the things that matter most at home? Meet Jibo, the family robot

Published: Sunday, July 20 2014 5:15 a.m. MDT

Updated: Sunday, July 20 2014 3:10 p.m. MDT

Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, founder and CEO of Jibo, Inc., sits with a Jibo bot.

via Screengrab

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If you're a mom or dad who'd like a little extra help — perhaps reminders or someone to order takeout while you change clothes, or even help reading to the kids when you're tied up — you might like Jibo.

Jibo is an 11-inch tall robot created by MIT professor and social robotics pioneer Cynthia Breazeal. She calls it the "first family robot."

"We're about humanizing technology," Breazeal told USA Today's Edward C. Baig.

In a promotional video included below, Jibo is depicted reminding a woman that her ride will be there in 20 minutes, ordering takeout for a young man and chatting with a little girl, among other things. He's a great cameraman, apparently.

Writes Braig, "As it turns out, that debut is going to take a while. Jibo's slated arrival isn't until the fall of 2015, more than a year away. Breazeal is trying to get the development and early adopter communities jazzed in advance."

Mashable describes it this way: "At first glance, Jibo looks like a mashup between a desk lamp and Wall-E’s 'EVE.' It has a round base that plugs into a standard AC outlet, a slightly cone-shaped midsection and a round head with a flat front that sits on top of it. That dark, round face features a 5.7-inch screen. The design is attractive, but not necessarily compelling — that is, until Jibo comes to life."

The robot uses voice, a changeable display and "body" movements to appear lifelike, though not humanlike.

Notes International Business Times, "Out of the box, Jibo has the ability to learn about the people around it and recognize different voices and faces. This is used by Jibo to interact with its users, whether it’s through conversation or coordinating a specific task such as sorting through voice messages."

“Jibo doesn’t replace people and human relationships; rather, it is designed to support, complement and extend what we need from others in an affordable, effective and delightful way so that we can succeed, thrive and grow,” Breazeal told IBT.

The robot is expected to grow in skill as the technology underpinning it matures, she said. It already moves and has "facial" expressions.

"Breazeal's research at the MIT Media Lab, along with that of Bilge Mutlu at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has shown how important it is for robot-human communication that robots can express emotion," wrote Hal Hodson for New Scientist. "The ability to turn your head around and pay attention to something else has been taken for granted, but it's huge," Mutlu told him.

CNN's Maggie Lake described meeting the little robot: "I spent time with Breazeal in her lab this week and I was amazed to see the way small children respond to robot interaction, as opposed to a learning app which they can tire of quickly.

"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," Lake wrote.

Breazeal introduced it on an indiegogo site and is looking for presales of the robot. You can preorder it for $499, which will provide the prototype. Developers can get one for $599 and help improve its capabilities.

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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