Nanny, personal assistant, storyteller, pet: The many roles of JIBO the family robot

A new robot called JIBO is being touted as the first of its kind that is tailored to families.

Though JIBO is unimposing at only 11in tall and 5lbs light, the little robot has the potential to change family dynamics and everyday life.

JIBO is able to recognise faces and talk to you, but he is more than just a novelty conversational robot. He can send and record voice messages, remind you of appointments, take photos and tell stories with movement and animation.

His creators even describe him as “the closest thing to a real-life teleportation device” because of his immersive video-calling capabilities that make it feel as if you are in the same room as the person you are calling.

Though he communicates with surprisingly natural language inflections and reactions, he was not created with a humanoid appearance. Instead, he resembles some sort of Pixar character, more like a cute family pet than a mini human.

This aesthetic decision is one of the elements that sets JIBO apart from Pepper, the emotion-reading humanoid robot that Japanese company SoftBank launched earlier this year.

While Pepper is being marketed as a companion that can understand and respond to your feelings, JIBO seems to fulfil a more comprehensive role—is he a home communications system, a personal assistant, a nanny, a pet?

Surely, JIBO’s developers want you to see him as all of these things. He is programmed with AI algorithms, helping him learn and adjust to your preferences so that he eases into your day-to-day life and becomes more than a trendy new gadget.

“What if technology actually treated you like a human being?” asked social robotics professor and JIBO founder Cynthia Breazeal. “What if technology helped you to feel closer to the ones you love? What if technology helped you like a partner rather than simply being a tool? That’s what JIBO’s about.”

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To further expand the mission of humanising technology, JIBO is being launched as an open platform so that users and developers can create applications themselves. In this way, JIBO will be able to communicate and complete tasks in ways that suit your own individual needs.

Potential customers seem to agree that JIBO could prove an asset to households. The robot’s Indiegogo campaign was fully funded in less than 24 hours, demonstrating the excitement surrounding the technology.

How could JIBO transform households? As a playmate and companion, he could combat loneliness. As a messaging system, he could improve family communications. As a personal assistant, he could increase efficiency. At the very least, as a cutting-edge robotic device displayed in your home, he could make you and your family feel like savvy masters of the latest technology.


Images and video courtesy of JIBO’s Indiegogo campaign.


Steve “Woz” Wozniak to advise hologram emoji company that he calls “groundbreaking”

Apple’s co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak has found himself a new gig; Woz has joined the hologram emoji company, Mojiit, as an adviser.

In his role as advisor to Mojiit, the legendary entrepreneur and engineer will help assemble a world-class engineering team in addition to bringing investors and partnerships to the newly launched startup. Wozniak will also serve as mentor to Mojiit founder, Jeremy Greene.

“I’m thrilled to join Mojiit as an advisor,” said Wozniak. “Jeremy is a natural leader, the company is groundbreaking, it’s going to change the ecommerce space, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Created in 2017, Mojiit is the latest startup technology venture from Greene. The company’s tech essentially enables users to project and share 3D hologram emojis via smartphones.

The platform turns users into emojis by scanning their face, which can then be sent to loved ones and friends. Once a Mojiit message is received, it will map the area where it is received and place the Mojiit hologram there in real time, so it works in a similar way to Pokemon Go.

“Steve is one of the best and brilliant engineers in the entire world. But outside of that, he’s a wonderful man,” said Greene. “There isn’t anyone I’d want to be in business with more than this guy. He’s a legend. Who better to learn from than the guy who created the computer?”

Image courtesy of Nichollas Harrison. Featured image courtesy of Mojiit

In addition to consumer use, businesses of all kinds can tap into hologram emojis with Mojiit’s technology.

Mojiit investors already  include NFL alum Ed Reed, and the company was able to raise a total of $1 million in its seed round of funding.

Alongside the appointment of Woz, Entourage and Ballers producer Rob Weiss recently joined the company as a creative director.

“It’s exciting to expand beyond television and film to digital platforms,” said Weiss. “Hologram technology brings incredible opportunity to entertainment and media. I’m thrilled to be leading creative at Mojiit.”

Nanoengineers send antibiotic-delivering micromotors into the body to treat cancer-causing infection

Nanoengineers have demonstrated for the first time how “micromotors” that measure half the width of a human hair can be used to transport antibiotics through the body.

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego tested the micromotors in mice with Helicobacter pylori infections, which can also be found in about two-thirds of the world’s population and while many people will never notice any signs of its presence it can cause peptic ulcers and stomach cancer.

The mice received the micromotors – packed with a clinical dose of the antibiotic clarithromycin – orally once a day for five consecutive days.

Afterwards, nanoengineers evaluated the bacterial count in each mouse stomach and found that treatment with the micromotors was slightly more effective than when the same dose of antibiotic was given in combination with proton pump inhibitors, which also suppress gastric acid production.

Micromotors administered to the mice swam rapidly throughout the stomach while neutralising gastric acid, which can be destructive to orally administered drugs such as antibiotics and protein-based pharmaceuticals.

Because gastric acid is so destructive to traditional antibiotics drugs used to treat bacterial infections, ulcers and other diseases in the stomach are normally taken with additional substances, called proton pump inhibitors.

But when taken over longer periods or in high doses, proton pump inhibitors can cause adverse side effects including headaches, diarrhea and fatigue. In more serious cases, they can cause anxiety or depression.

The micromotors, however, have a built-in mechanism that neutralises gastric acid and effectively deliver their drug payloads in the stomach without requiring the use of proton pump inhibitors.

“It’s a one-step treatment with these micromotors, combining acid neutralisation with therapeutic action,” said Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila, a postdoctoral scholar in Wang’s research group at UC San Diego and a co-first author of the paper.

The nanoengineers say that while the present results are promising, this work is still at an early stage.

To test their work, the team is planning future studies to into the therapeutic performance of the micromotors in animals and humans, and will compare it with other standard therapies used to combat stomach diseases.

UC San Diego nanoengineers also plan to test different drug combinations with the micromotors to treat multiple diseases in the stomach or in different sections of the gastrointestinal tract.

Overall, the researchers say that this work opens the door to the use of synthetic motors as active delivery platforms in the treatment of diseases.

Image and video courtesy of the Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics at UC San Diego.