Tag Archives: Jibo

Home Robot: Rise of the Fadbot

“The third batch of 1,000 Pepper sold out within one minute again on Saturday, August 29th. The next sale is scheduled at 10am on Sept. 26 on the Softbank corporate website. We are very pleased with this very promising start.”
Aldebaran Newsletter, September 2015

Are home robots just a passing fad? Things come and go. The latest must-have invention may be in great demand when it first appears, but will it have staying power? Remember the Apple iPod? The peak year for worldwide sales was 2008 when almost 55 million were sold. By 2014 sales had dropped to “just” 14 million. Of course that’s not bad, but other things have taken their place.

Mobile phones, iPads and other tablet devices have gradually taken over from iPods as technology has advanced. However there is now talk of the iPad boom coming to an end.

Should we think of home robots in the same technological field? Are they going to be just a fad? Admittedly it is only the beginning, but are robot sales going to peak and then just drop off year by year when something else comes along to interest those members of the general public with disposable income?

Rise of the Fadbot

The majority of robots available, or soon to be available, are really only just toys with a few useful functions. Those functions could easily be supplied by desktop computers. The present-day Fadbot will not take away the jobs that need to be done each and every day in the home.

If I was going to spend a lot of money on a robot, I would want it to do more than chat to me, even if it was trying to cheer me up. My ideal home robot would go round tidying up the house, perhaps a bit of light dusting. My robot would also be able to clean the windows, take the rubbish out, weed the garden, clean and polish the car.

I think that the robots we will be able to buy over the next two or three years are just Fadbots. They will be looked at in the museums of the future and children will ask why they were so basic.

The potential income for major companies, such as Apple and Google, from robots that can be classed as proper modern domestic servants, is so great that when sales of the initial Fadbots begin to decline, new, and truly useful robots will take their places. But will it be harder for the big companies to sell their domestic servant robots after people have become bored with their Fadbots?

Lucy Black, writing on i-programmer, 7th September, has much the same view as me:

What is it about social robots that makes them so attractive? The latest is Buddy as its Indegogo campaign is coming to a close with over $500,000 pledged – 500% over the inital goal. I don’t know about you, but I want a robot to help with the chores not the chats. But I seem to be in a minority if the recent crowd funding of Jibo and Buddy are anything to go by. A social robot is one that is designed to interact with humans and be “helpful” in ways that are not particularly tangible. The robot might take a photo, or remind you of an appointment,or play you some music, but it won’t physically interact with the world which means it cannot bring you a drink or load the dishwasher.

The above-mentioned Indegogo campaign actually closed at a massive 618% funded – $617,830 raised in just two months. The first Buddy robots will ship next year.

Here is what Buddy’s inventors have to say: “Open source and easy to use, Buddy protects your home, entertains your kids, and helps you stay connected with the ones you love.”

Will the families of the future, with their domestic servant robots, feel like the folks upstairs at Downton Abbey? Will their robots be dressed in traditional Edwardian servants’ clothes?

I would love to have some kind of sponsorship for this Blog. Sadly, by announcing that all the robots available to buy are just Fadbots, I have probably just shot myself in the foot.

Your comments and views on this topic would be most welcome.

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Relationships with robots

Quote by Cynthia Breazeal

I do think, in time, people will have, sort of, relationships with certain kinds of robots – not every robot, but certain kinds of robots – where they might feel that it is a sort of friendship, but it’s going to be of a robot-human kind. – Cynthia Breazeal

Let the future begin with Pepper

Yesterday I watched a wonderful new video produced by Aldebaran, part of the Japanese SoftBank company, to promote their new social companion robot, Pepper. Their website describes Pepper as “the first humanoid robot designed to live with humans”. Not only that, Pepper can actually recognise and react to human emotions.

When I first mentioned Pepper on this blog in July last year – link – I rather unkindly said that he had an annoying voice, well I have to say that I am getting used to it, and it doesn’t seem that bad any more. I also said that he had huge potential, and that I certainly stand by!

In Aldebaran’s March newsletter, while reporting that Pepper was now on sale to the public, they announced that the first 300 available in Japan were ordered within a minute. This is not surprising when you consider that the price was, I believe, around the US$9,000 mark, quite amazing when compared to other robots that are in development. Sadly, this is more expensive than I originally reported on this blog, but according to one news report, Pepper is initially being sold at a loss. The purchase is being made easier because buyers will pay just $1,660 followed by $206 a month for three years. During that three years the robot will be insured against damage and will also have access to Softbank’s cloud-based AI software so that updates can presumably be downloaded automatically. However, as with other advanced electronic products, expect to see the price fall as the sales rise.

The makers of Jibo must be worried. Even though their little companion robot is much less expensive than Pepper, I feel that Pepper will be more attractive to buyers because he just looks more like everyone’s idea of a family robot.

In this scene from the promotional video, Pepper is acting as story teller to the two children.

While watching Aldebaran’s promotional video (which is included lower down on this page), I couldn’t help but be reminded of the robot “Andrew” in the film Bicentennial Man starring Robin Williams, especially in the way the children react to the robot. Pepper seems like he could be a very early version of Andrew.

The first 300 Peppers apparently went to developers so we can expect an explosion of Apps that will expand Pepper’s functionality.

In the video, Pepper is asked to take a photograph of the family group at a birthday party, which he does. However the little girl, who has grown very attached to the robot (just as the little girl in the film Bicentennial Man) insists that Pepper is included in the photograph.

Jibo, the American family robotic device can also take photographs for you so that everyone is included – no need for the bleeping countdown function – but somehow I can’t see the same emotional attachment forming there.