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JIBO-The World’s First Social Robot for the Home

JIBO was developed by roboticist Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, founder and CEO of JIBO.  Jibo is the first ever, highly capable social robot for the home. Its a highly intelligent desktop companion with the ability to emotionally connect with users through its sophisticated voice interaction, expressive UI, and physical movement of human-like poses and expressiveness.

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“What is a social robot supposed to look like? We have asked ourselves this question many times during the last year. Huge Design was fortunate enough to be partnered with the JIBO team and tasked with creating the industrial design/look and feel for JIBO. At first, it seemed that our lack of experience designing anything remotely close to a robot might be a problem. We quickly learned however that this product needed to be unlike any robot existing and a fresh industrial design was going to be a crucial part in defining this new socially charged experience for users.” – JIBO blog

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The idea of robots being a part of our daily lives is a controversial topic to say the least. It seems everyone you talk to has a strong opinion about the issue as well as an equally vivid image in their head of what a robot looks like. Cliché robot visuals are everywhere in our culture and much of it heavy-handed and unflattering. Popular images conjure a complicated machine with poorly simulated human-like parts mixed with exposed joints, sensors and lights.

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JIBO, measuring at about 11 inches tall and weighing approximately 6 pounds, is a robotic device designed for people to use as a companion and helper at home. , The team behind JIBO aims to bring it to market in time for the 2015 holiday season. The JIBO does not make sandwiches, or popcorn, or clean the carpet or open jar lids. JIBO sits and, in the context of those trying to put a human face on technology, JIBO can emotionally connect. JIBO, in interacting with a younger child, can be a responsive storyteller and playmate. JIBO can take a family picture. JIBO can remind the busy cook in the kitchen that an appointment is fast approaching. Does JIBO ever get off the counter or desk to walk or move about on wheels? The answer is No. According to the creators, it is best to place “him” in a room where most of your household activities are happening or where JIBO’s assistance is most needed. Did we say “his?” The video refers to JIBO as “he.” JIBO is “gendered male,” according to the team.

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A “next wave” of computing will be around emotion. She said she found people wanted to treat JIBO as someone, not something. She said people told her the difference between a tablet and JIBO is, according to her, that JIBO fits in like part of the family. “JIBO’s warm, JIBO’s friendly,” – Dr. Cynthia Breazeal

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Robots have looked the way they do for a good reason. Most of these machines are a collection of motors/sensors/chips/joints that strive to mimic the movements/appearance of lifelike beings. The overtly mechanical look is driven by physical necessity, allowing these machines to do real work in a very task-oriented manner.

A social robot is a very different machine however. The vision that Cynthia and the JIBO team laid out to us almost a year ago painted the picture of a socially connected, intelligent home companion. Its primary skill would be its ability to emotional connect with its user and become a helpful extension of the family. JIBO would have no need to zip around the house on 2 wheels or reach over and pour you a glass of water. Instead, its movements, expressions and communication all needed to be focused directly on the user in a subtle and pleasing way. This robot’s primary mechanical task was to make you smile.

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Every design project has unique challenges and this one was certainly no exception. How do we erase the visual constructs of what a robot is supposed to look like and focus this new experience? What qualities will make this little machine deliver on the promise in sophisticated, visually bold way? John Maeda, renowned graphic designer and author of The Laws of Simplicity, famously said that the key to creating harmony between object and user arises when you “subtract the obvious and add the meaningful”. This quote summarizes our fundamental design approach with JIBO from early concepts to final product.

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“The personality that is portrayed through JIBO is excellent. Every move, every little gesture, is done very well. Great design overall. This is the intersection of technology and hardware, creating a beautiful object but also a beautiful experience. Very fun, very inviting” – Jury Commentary/CORE77 DESIGN AWARD

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Jibo was designed as a social companion for users that aren’t necessarily tech savvy or have a desire to deal with the latest technology. Primarily targeting the elderly and children, Jibo was intended to be an approachable, friendly and highly capable personal assistant that delivers a social user experience beyond the interaction of typical mobile devices, PCs, etc.

A social robot is a very different product challenge then designing a traditional robotic device. Traditional robots are overtly mechanical by nature, driven by physical necessity to do real work and complete physical tasks. The Jibo design needed to define a new, non-threatening experience and emotional connection with users without the stigma often associated with robots.

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Jibo needed to have a dynamic/articulating body and expressive face in order to emotionally connect with users without being visually complicated or intimidating. The articulation of the body and head needed to be responsive yet subtle.Most robotic movement is achieved through mechanical joints and pivots that add a great deal of visual complexity and added noise.

The solution for Jibo was a seamless approach which sectioned the main head/body into cylindrical elements connected by a motor-controlled tilted axis rotation. This allowed Jibo to appear clean and non-mechanical while enabling a virtually silent movement, able to snap into a variety of thoughtful poses with precision and sophistication.

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Creating the poses through rotational sections eliminates visual joints, allows for the seamless/responsive movement while keeping all the mechanical elements/motors buried in the inner core for virtually silent movement.

Jibo became the most successful technology campaign on Indiegogo ever when it broke the 2.2 million mark during its crowd funding effort. This market success soon lead to a 25.3 million in series A investment which has supercharged its development and expand its market.

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Name: JIBO
Type: Robot
Dimensions: 11 inches tall
Colors: White
Year: 2015


  • 2015 – CORE77 DESIGN AWARD – Category: Consumer Products – Professional Winner

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Dr. Cynthia Breazeal
Product Designer: HUGE DESIGN – 1426 18th St, San Francisco, California 94107, United States
Manufacturer: JIBO – 230 Congress St, Boston MA, 02110 United States
Text Description: © Courtesy of JIBO, CORE77 DESIGN AWARD
Images: © JIBO


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