For Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, it's just about time to celebrate.
The robotics researcher and professor at the MIT Media Lab was just getting ready to throw a party when The Huffington Post spoke with her yesterday, only hours after she and her team made a major splash with the debut of Jibo, their family-oriented "social robot."
Jibo, which stands just under a foot tall, can see, hear, speak, learn, help and relate, according to its website. It can take pictures, track faces, recognize where sound is coming from and -- ideally -- help organize and simplify your life.
"This is the beginning of a whole new wave of technology computing," Breazeal told The Huffington Post.
On Wednesday, Jibo began its crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. The bot is currently selling for $499 to consumers and $599 to developers. According to Breazeal, the crowdfunding approach is their way of getting feedback on the prototype from the most interested community of bot-enthusiasts out there.
"We can get their dialogue early enough to consider it in our development plan," she told The Huffington Post. "We definitely want the non-tech savvy people engaging in a buttery-smooth interaction."
But Jibo isn't going to stop there. As alluded to in the promotional video above, Breazeal and her team hope to win over more than just consumers.
"We are trying to court people who create mobile apps and games to say, 'hey, look, imagine creating content and applications for technology that actually feels alive,'" Breazeal said.
If they are successful, Jibo might actually look like it does in the video above -- reading bedtime stories to a young girl and using its interactive LCD panel to display images.
The bot has a creative design that gives it something between a human and desk lamp appearance. Its midsection and "head" can rotate and turn, which help it distinguish between "awake" and "asleep." Even in its prototype stage, Jibo dances, introduces itself, listens to voice commands and displays images on its 5.7 inch touchscreen LCD display.
"For a social robot it brings together a set of expertise that is not typical," Breazeal said.
Jibo already has the telepresence app, which is similar to Skype except you can tap on people's faces to rotate focus to them. In other words, it gives Skype the human element of being able to look around the room and change the focus of your camera. Breazeal plans to incorporate Bluetooth and a cloud-based update system -- both things that didn't exist just a decade ago.
According to Mashable, when you take Jibo home, it will guide you through connecting to a Wi-Fi network and will take specific steps to learn more about you. The first thing it does is register your face and voice, asking you a few questions and explaining how it can help you.
Jibo is not meant to be device, it is meant to be a companion.
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