Own Your Own NSA Agent
Tracy Gill
By Tracy Gill  

Ok perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch, but it was one of the first things that came to my mind when I saw a product video for a small robot device called a Jibo. The YouTube video for Jibo had close to 10 million views and 6,500+ comments, and seemed to be making the rounds quickly and effectively across the social media landscape.

Jibo is the brainchild of Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, social robotics pioneer and MIT professor, and is the “world’s first social robotics device for the home”. A look at the video below which introduces Jibo, the friendly, intelligent and helpful robot, will leave you with more than a few questions. The first more than likely being “is this for real?!”

From a design standpoint it’s clear to see why people would love Jibo. He, or she, is all soft curves and smooth movement. Programmed with a warm, sing-song voice this robot is strikingly similar to Baymax, the lovable robot companion from Disney’s Big Hero 6. You find yourself smiling and laughing along with the interaction between Jibo and his humans. However, for some, or maybe it’s just me, in the back of your mind you’re thinking this is bad, so very bad.

Jibo sees everything with the help of two high resolution cameras, and hears everything with 360 degree microphones. He even learns your preferences and routines through the use of artificial intelligence algorithms, to “adapt and fit into your life”. He’s an assistant, a messenger, photographer, videographer, companion and storyteller. And that’s just the first model!

So what happens when Jibo, connected to the world through WiFi, constantly transmits your personal data to that information starved ‘cloud’? All of your private moments and conversations recorded and stored within reach but also within the reach of anyone smart enough to harvest it. Forgive my paranoia but I don’t like it!

Naturally I can see companies trying to utilize this new platform to beam advertising and marketing materials directly into your home. Invasive but effective! And it would be interesting to see what the new owners of this device have to say about it. At US$749, Jibo is sold out and will begin shipping in March/April next year.

I await the robot revolution with curiosity, and trepidation…




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