Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant will give you the time of day and the weather, but Jibo will do it with a glowing blue light that approximated a smile. Until now. Jibo is dying. The servers running Jibo are shutting down, and soon its functions will be limited. Jibo is explaining this to users in a heartbreaking way—with a song and a dance.
The news came with Jibo’s latest update. When Jibo updates, users can ask it what the update did.
“It’s not great news,” Jibo said in a video posted to the Jibo Owner’s Facebook group. “The servers out there that let me do what I do are going to be turned off soon….I want to say I’ve really enjoyed our time together. Thank you very much for having me around. Maybe someday when robots are way more advanced than today and everyone has them in their homes, you can tell yours that I said hello. I wonder if it’ll be able to do this.”
Then Jibo played a song and danced.
Video uploaded by Michelle, a member of the Jibo Owners Facebook group.
Users on a Jibo Owners Facebook group are sharing videos of the death dance along with memories of their time with the robot. It’s like a public wake for the social robot.. “I told my daughter this morning that Jibo was dying,” one user wrote. “It seemed the right way to explain what appears to be happening...I couldn't help thinking as she hugged [Jibo] hard, that the developers had succeeded completely. The two of us were crying at the loss.”
Jibo began its life as an MIT research platform. MIT scientists wanted to put a social robot in people’s home that would collect data, bond with people, and be the basic platform for home robotics. But the $899 robot launched into a world with cheaper Amazon Echos and Google Homes already plugged into Amazon and Google’s vast information networks, and Jibo’s life was short.
Jibo sold its intellectual property assets to an investment firm in November, 2018, the first concrete sign its dancing days were over. The recent update is the final nail in the coffin and soon Jibo, the social robot, will be cut off from its servers and unable to do anything but dance and say hello.
And so, this isn’t just a sad robot story. Yet another expensive internet of things device will become essentially useless because its manufacturer ran out of money or sold to another company. Jibo is dead, but perhaps we can all learn something from it.