Meet the World's First Family Robot

Society has long fantasized about robotic home helpers, but making one that is smart, helpful, affordable, and aesthetically pleasing is no easy feat. That’s what makes the new Jibo robot so impressive. This 6-pound, 11-inch-tall mechanical cyborg was unveiled on Indiegogo today as “The World’s First Family Robot,” aimed at being both a home helper and a friend. The crowdfunding campaign already hit its goal of $100,000 and is still climbing.

Jibo was created by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, director of the Personal Robots Group at MIT Media Lab and an expert in how humans interact with robots. Her goal? To humanize technology. “What if technology actually treated you like a human being?” Breazeal asks. “What if technology helped you feel closer to the ones you loved? What if technology helped you like a partner, rather than simply being a tool? That’s what Jibo’s about.” She wants Jibo to be a household companion, like a pet, or perhaps even another family member. And except for a heartbeat, it has all the hallmarks of a buddy.

It knows who you are.

Jibo's two hi-res cameras recognize and track your face, letting the bot call you by name and respond to your commands.

It knows what you like.

Over time, the bot will adapt to your preferences and learn your tastes. The Indiegogo demo video shows Jibo knowing—and then ordering—its owner’s favorite take-out meal.

It does nice things for you.

Jibo will send reminders and relay messages from your mobile devices. It will help you take the perfect photo by detecting when everyone in the frame is smiling before snapping the shot. The demo video also hints at a time when Jibo will be able to connect to other smart things in your house, switching on lights when you get home or turning down the temperature when you’re gone. The demo video even shows Jibo telling bedtime stories to youngsters.

Jibo can project social and emotional cues.

The bot's LCD screen serves as a de facto face with a digital eye that can squint with happiness or swell with curiosity. It responds to human touch, and its fluid body motions make him appear truly alive and relatable. “It’s really important for technology to be humanized,” Dr. Breazeal told the New York Times. “The next stage in computing, the next wave, is emotion.”

But what about security? The idea of having an all-seeing intelligent robot lurking in the corner of the living room might make more than a few people uneasy. The company says users' privacy is a top priority. It has “designed policies and controls to safeguard the collection, use, and disclosure of your information.”

At $499, this robot is cheaper than many top-of-the-line laptops. If you want to get your hands on Jibo, its creators say they hope to make him available to consumers by the end of 2015.

Images courtesy of JIBO on Indiegogo.

By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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