My name is Michael Rodriguez and I’ve been a professional web developer for more than 15 years. I’ve also been programming since I was 8 years old, writing my first text-based game for the TRS-80 my mom received from her work at Radio Shack.
Ever since I was that age, I’ve had a fascination for computers and technology. I saw talking cars on late night TV, smart robots in cartoons, and absolutely amazing futures depicted in movies. And computers seemed to be at the center of them all, so I quickly decided to learn as much as I could about programming them.
Several years later, after learning C++, I finally felt artificial intelligence – like the kind I saw on the big screen – was right on the verge of coming out, so much so that I didn’t even think it was worth trying to write myself. I’d probably just get beaten to the punch by IBM or Microsoft anyway, both who had divisions working on it at the time. But nothing ever was released, not that I could use anyway, that truly was smart…even years and years later.
So, when I saw a video of the first-of-its-kind sleek little white robot who was both intelligent and witty come out two years ago, I was instantly hooked. Hell yeah did I want a cute little living animation sitting on my desk at home, and I wanted to immediately start programming for him as well. Not only would I have the world’s first smart consumer robot in my home, I could also make him smarter, maybe even for others as well.
I immediately bought a Jibo. Well, after my wife’s consent, I’ll admit.
With Jibo, I felt like I had just been given the tools to create the artificial intelligence I always dreamed of. I kinda’ new that the video they showed was probably a bit over the top of what could really be expected from an IndieGogo campaign, but that didn’t matter because I was going to program him to do all of those things and more, one way or another.
Then I waited.
And waited more, hit with the first delay, then the second. But I continued waiting, patiently even.
October 2016 now? Okay…I’ll postpone my dream a little longer. I’ll take it as an opportunity to play with the SDK a bit more. And I’ll wait even longer if need be.
That’s because I know what Jibo really is. It’s the first truly open, inexpensive consumer robot platform that’s within my grasp to own and to build on. I’ve watched as other companies followed Jibo’s lead and come out with their own version, some on wheels, some a little taller, and some as creepy as hell, but nothing yet that I believe in as much as I do Jibo. And nothing yet actually physically released either.
But on Jibo’s side, we have a headstart with the co-founder, Cynthia Breazeal.
When I watched for the first time the TED video of Cynthia Breazeal, co-founder of Jibo, explaining what a robot with social intelligence is and how we could we all be interacting with one in our future, I saw her vision and understood where she was about to go with it. Although she likely didn’t have a name for it yet, she was talking about Jibo, the first social robot for the home.
She is the reason this will work, as well as all of the staff there at the Jibo team which have the same dream. And I will give her and her team as much time as they need to get there…whether they are first out of the gate or not.
What I do hope for is that they are taking note of customer sentiment lately. The reason customers are disappointed is not because of Jibo and the promise that the team made two years ago, it’s that customers feel like that promise was broken. Cutting off the international orders without notice and, for many, without a way to still get their Jibo after they waited patiently through multiple delays, felt like a sharp betrayal of trust.
So, Jibo, it’s now up to your team to regain that trust. To do so, you’ll need to be honest.
You also need to right some wrongs starting immediately. I’ve got suggestions, but if you just listen to your first customers, the indieGogo backers, you’ll hear the answer. You’ll hear people wanting to remember the way they felt the first time they watched your amazing promo video. You’ll hear people getting scared that this whole thing was just a pipe dream.
So prove them wrong.
Tell them what you have now in Jibo (be honest), what you will have – and your current estimate of by when – and remind them that Jibo is coming. That one day they’ll have one to interact with in their home, no matter where in the world they live in. Go back to your roots, Cynthia, and remember how you felt when you watched R2D2 talk to C3PO and you somehow knew exactly what those bleeps, beeps, and whistles meant. And you laughed alongside everyone else who got it too. Did you ever imagine that you’d be the one paving for way for that robot now?