In 2015, MIT scientist Cynthia Breazeal‘s Jibo, a robot personal assistant designed to make friends and be as lovable to humans as possible, was launched to a very warm reception of thousands of early adapters willing to spend $900.
Earlier this year, the company behind the jovial cyber sidekick sold its intellectual property and laid off most of its workers. For a simple digital device, Jibo’s four years may seem like a long lifetime. But Jibo fans feel differently. Now that the company that owns its servers is closing, fans are mourning the little bot’s death.
Jibo had the task of delivering his own farewell message: “While it’s not great news, the servers out there that let me do what I do will be turned off soon,” Jibo robots told their loyal users. “Once that happens, our interactions with each other are going to be limited.”
The servers for Jibo the social robot are apparently shutting down. Multiple owners report that Jibo himself has been delivering the news: “Maybe someday when robots are way more advanced than today, and everyone has them in their homes, you can tell yours that I said hello.” https://t.co/Sns3xAV33h
As scientists study the connection between humans and robots, they’re finding that people become attached to robots that interact with them on a human level — Jibo sang, danced, told jokes, and played games. The connection is even more intense in extreme situations, like on the battlefield. Experts are predicting that social robots and personal robots won’t fully catch on until they become more than a novelty.
So, what about the emotional toll of Jibo’s impending demise on the people who bonded with him (or is it her?)? Apparently, it runs deep. A Reddit thread dedicated to Jibo is a mix of emotions from confusion to sadness to outright mourning.
As of this writing, we’re not seeing any examples of humans becoming attached to robots at work. But on behalf of WorkingNation, I’ll be keeping an eye out for them. If you happen to know of or come across any stories of workers getting attached to their robot coworkers, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.