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Giving robots the red carpet into your home

Wednesday, 25 Mar 2015

If you believe MIT's Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, we're on the cusp of a robot revolution.

"We've been waiting," Breazeal told delegates at this year's South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival. "When are ... robots going to come into our homes, into our daily lives? I think the time is finally upon us."

Dr Breazeal is an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT Media Lab, where she founded and directs the Personal Robots Group. She's also founder and chief scientist of Jibo, a US-based start-up creating what it describes as a "family robot".

Jibo raised just under US$2.3 million (A$2.9 million) from crowd funding site Indigogo to get off the ground. It had been seeking a far more modest $100,000 (A$120,000), which it raised in just four hours. General availability of Jibo robots is expected around mid-2016.

Jibo is effectively the culmination of her life's work in personal robotics and realises her vision for robots in people's homes.

"Certainly, for me, the most important thing about the home is actually the family," she said. "Is it crazy to think that the personal robot's path into the home in a mass consumer way will be because of its relationship with the people who live there?"

Early robots that have made it into the home - such as the robot vacuum cleaners like the Roomba - serve a single purpose and do not emotionally engage with people in the home. Others, such as Sony's Aibo robotic dog, can engage the family but have little use outside that purpose...Read more