So, the folks behind the Jibo “Kickstarter” (actually Indiegogo but ‘kickstarter’ is like ‘hoover’ now) are saying that this is the “first family robot”.

Have a look at their video.

That’s a great presentation but it’s almost entirely mocked-up. The commercial version isn’t due to be out until towards the end of next year.

To see what it can do right now have a look at the Tech Crunch video.

What’s striking about that is the prototype’s hardware looks complete. The body articulation, screen, voice recognition and generation and camera with face tracking basically aren’t much more complicated that we already get from Siri or Google Voice.

So, what’s interesting about this concept is that the value-add is almost entirely in software – and that software is almost entirely AI. It’s relatively easy to plug into the Just Eat API (even fast food aggregators have their own open sourcing tech teams now) or people’s calendars or communications. Where it gets much trickier is when people expect to go beyond what you can do today with Google Voice (basic questions and commands) and start wanting to be able to work with their robot like a person.

The fact that it’s mostly about the software becomes very important. When this first comes out I don’t expect it to be very good. When the Microsoft one comes out it will be terrible (because Microsoft could never produce a good quality friendly interface), the google one will be very smart (due to buying DeepMind) and the Apple one will be maybe a year or two after Jibo but it will be extremely impressive – with a price-tag to match.

What’s common across the board is that they will get better, and better, and even better through rapid software updates. This is going to be the next big area of competition between the world’s biggest and best software companies – and you can bet they’re already throwing masses of resources at it and when they start arriving on kitchen-counter-tops that will only increase.

I expect most people to have something very similar to this in their homes in well under 10 years.

Of course – it may well not be like this version, which would need to be carried from room to room as you move around. Perhaps it will be the ambient environment computing seen in Star Trek, perhaps it’ll make it’s own way around the house or perhaps it’ll all get overtaken by cyber contact lenses and audio implants.

All we can say for certain is that commercial pressures are going to make this kind of thing happen a lot quicker than most people realise.

Advertisements