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.


DJI’s First Drone Arena in Tokyo to Open This Saturday

Consumer drone giant DJI will open its first Japanese drone arena in the city of Tokyo this Saturday, providing a space for both hardened professionals and curious newcomers to hone their flying skills.

The arena, which covers an area of 535 square metres, will not only include a large flying area complete with obstacles, but also offer a store where visitors can purchase the latest DJI drones and a technical support area where drone owners can get help with quadcopter issues.

The hope is that the arena will allow those who are curious about the technology but currently lack the space to try it out to get involved.

“As interest around our aerial technology continues to grow, the DJI Arena concept is a new way for us to engage not just hobbyists but also those considering this technology for their work or just for the thrill of flying,” said Moon Tae-Hyun, DJI’s director of brand management and operations.

“Having the opportunity to get behind the remote controller and trying out the technology first hand can enrich the customer experience. When people understand how it works or how easy it is to fly, they will discover what this technology can do for them and see a whole new world of possibilities.”

Images courtesy of DJI

In addition to its general sessions, which will allow members of the public to drop by and try their hand at flying drones, the arena will also offer private hire, including corporate events. For some companies, then, drone flying could become the new golf.

There will also be regular events, allowing pros to compete against one another, and drone training, in the form of DJI’s New Pilot Experience Program, for newcomers.

The arena has been launched in partnership with Japan Circuit, a developer of connected technologies, including drones.

“We are extremely excited to partner with DJI to launch the first DJI Arena in Japan,” said Tetsuhiro Sakai, CEO of Japan Circuit.

“Whether you are a skilled drone pilot or someone looking for their first drone, we welcome everyone to come and learn, experience it for themselves, and have fun. The new DJI Arena will not only serve as a gathering place for drone enthusiasts but also help us reach new customers and anyone interested in learning about this incredible technology.”

The arena is the second of its kind to be launched by DJI, with the first located in Yongin, South Korea, and detailed in the video above. .

Having opened in 2016, the area has attracted visitors from around the world, demonstrating serious demand for this type of entertainment space.

If the Tokyo launch goes well, it’s likely DJI will look at rolling out its arena concept to other cities, perhaps even bringing the model to the US and Europe.

For now, however, those who are interested can book time at the Tokyo arena here.

Commercial Human Spaceflight Advances Prompt Calls for Space Safety Institute

Commercial human spaceflight has been a long-held dream, but now it is finally poised to become a reality. Companies including Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are inching ever closer to taking private citizens into space, and there are serious plans for spaceports in several parts of the world, including Hawaii, the US, and Scotland, the UK.

But while the industry is advancing, the legal side of this fledgling commercial space industry remains underdeveloped, leading to calls for the development of an organisation to establish a framework for the safe operation of spaceports for human commercial spaceflights.

Writing in the journal New Space, Mclee Kerolle, from the United States International Institute of Space Law in Paris, France, has proposed the establishment of a Space Safety Institute recognised by the US congress and the United Nations.

This institute would “develop, enforce and adopt standards of excellence”, allowing the industry to develop while protecting it from liability and insurance risks.

“Currently, no international regulatory body exists to regulate the operation of spaceports,” he wrote. “This is unfortunate because while the advent of commercial human spaceflight industry is imminent, a majority of the focus from the legal community will be on regulating spaceflights and space access vehicles.

“However, the regulation of spaceports should be viewed in the same light as the rest of the commercial human spaceflight industry.”

The article focuses particularly on the establishment of a spaceport at the Kona International Airport in Keahole, Hawaii. At present, the spaceport’s development is subject to regulation by the Federal Aviation Authority, however there are aspects to spaceport development that do not apply to conventional aviation operations.

A spacesuit design for commercial flights developed by SpaceX. Featured image: SpaceX’s proposed spaceport for its conceptual interplanetary transport system. All images courtesy of SpaceX

The institute would be designed to first and foremost ensure safety within the industry, so it would be important, according to Kerolle, to ensure it was made up of individuals with expertise in the field, rather than bureaucrats.

“To make sure that this flexibility is inherent in a Space Safety Institute, the organization should be composed of individuals within the industry as opposed to government officials who are not familiar with the commercial human spaceflight industry,” he wrote.

“As a result, this should protect the commercial human spaceflight industry to some liability exposure, as well as promote growth in the industry to ensure the industry’s survival.”