Once the vanguard of a new age of consumer bots, the cute but doomed “social robot” Jibo is now marching toward obsolescence in the most friendly way possible: By politely informing owners that their time together is coming to an end.
Jibo owners have taken to social media to post videos of their bots saying farewell with a strangely sentimental programmed speech. In it, Jibo explains that the servers it runs on will soon shut down, and when they do, its functionality will be limited. That’s probably in reference to the bot’s Alexa-like features, where owners could ask it simple questions. It will also likely impact the robot’s photo-taking capabilities, which required the Jibo app and stored images on the cloud.
“I want to say I’ve really enjoyed our time together. Thank you very, very much for having me around,” says Jibo says in its goodbye speech. “Maybe someday when robots are way more advanced than today, and everyone has them in their homes, you can tell yours I said hello.” Cue oddly upbeat dancing.
Functionally, Jibo will still be able to perform some activities. Another video uploaded to Twitter shows Jibo explaining most of the buttons in its menus should still work and that there should be some new buttons as well. It’s unclear as to what sort of offline capabilities those buttons will offer, but it should at least serve as some solace for diehard Jibo fans.
Considering that dancing, and yes, even twerking, was Jibo’s greatest skill, its moves are a fitting end to a somewhat eerie goodbye. It’s a little sad but also extremely bizarre watching a Pixar-esque robot acknowledge that its time on Earth is coming to an end. That soon, it will be a mere husk of its former self, and that while owners will still be able to say “Hey Jibo,” it won’t understand understand them. It’s like Flowers for Algernon, consumer tech edition.
The Jibo robot was just one of many consumer robot casualties in 2018. It made a bit of a splash when it was first introduced in 2014, and again in 2017 when Time named it one of its best inventions of 2017. But the company was also beset by delays from the outset, and by November 2018, had quietly sold off all its IP assets.
Like Jibo suggested, I went to Jibo.com to find more information, but the website is a crumbling graveyard of broken links where videos used to be. Its support page redirects you to a warning that the site is unsafe and its security certificate expired 31 days ago. I sent emails to Jibo contacts, but they bounced back because again, the server either expired or can’t receive mail. The official Jibo Twitter’s been inactive since May 2018.
It’s all a bit morbid, funny, and morbidly funny. In the meantime, maybe bereft Jibo owners can form support groups or hold symbolic funerals like many first generation Aibo owners did when Sony stopped supporting the robot dog.