Jibo, Jimmy, Pepper: Will 2015 Be the Year of Personal Robots?

We examine Jibo, Jimmy, and Pepper: three social companion robots for the average family coming in 2015.

Get ready to say “hello” to Jimmy, Pepper and Jibo, the first wave of truly social companion robots for the average family coming in 2015.

These new-gen social robots are designed to be live-in members of the family, interacting and responding to human cues.


First to market will be Jimmy, a product of Intel and Trossen Robotics. Jimmy is a 27-inch tall, 13.2-pound open-sourced 3D-printed robot that is powered by Intel’s new Edison Internet of Things (IoT) chip. It has a price tag of $1,600 for a developer starter kit that covers the non-3D printable parts such as the motors and processors. The target delivery date is January 2015.

Jimmy is the brainchild of Intel futurist and principal engineer Brian David Johnson and a team of company researchers and engineers known as Intel’s 21st Century Robot Initiative.

“What’s so exciting about the open source model is the public gets involved in developing this first generation of crowd-sourced, consumer robots,” Johnson says. “We all get a say in what they do, and together we come up with far more ideas, more innovation, and more creativity.”

“The idea of Jimmy - and all subsequent robots that developers decide to build on it - is for it to be social and go off and interact with other people and with other robots,” says Johnson.

Johnson wanted Jimmy to be based on open source technology to make it easy for non-programmers to build with robotic apps as easy to design as those for smartphones. He wants everybody to be able to create their own robot and give it a name.


Pepper, said to be the first personal robot that can read human emotions, is the creation of Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank. Introduced in June 2014, it will go on sale exclusively in Japan in February 2015 at a price of $1,900.

The four-foot tall, 62-pound humanoid robot with a 12-hour battery life takes his surroundings into consideration to react pro-actively using proprietary algorithms to analyze expressions and voice tones, allowing it to respond to humans in a natural way.

Pepper has a 10-inch display and employs four microphones, two cameras and a Wi-Fi connection. A cloud database stores past human interactions, allowing it, over time, to learn from past mistakes.

“Our goal is to have Pepper in many homes communicating and interacting to make people happy,” says SoftBank spokesperson Yusuke Abe.

SoftBank says Pepper can make jokes, dance and amuse people through a variety of entertainment capabilities that allow it to evolve by learning through interactions with people.

SoftBank Robotics CEO Fumihide Tomizawa has said Pepper will be sold at Sprint stores in the U.S. by the end of summer after gathering data from its Japan sales. Following trial sales in Japan, SoftBank has a base of 2,600 retail stores from which to launch broader sales of Pepper.


Also due out in late 2015 is Weston, MA-based Jibo Inc.’s self-named Jibo, which the company calls the world’s first family robot. Unlike the mobile Pepper, Jibo is an armless, 11-inch, six-pound table-bound robot.

Jibo was founded in late 2012 by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, founder and director of the Personal Robots Group at MIT’s Media Lab. Earlier in 2014, Jibo completed the most successful technology campaign ever on Indiegogo, raising more than $2.2 million from more than 5,500 supporters.  Customers were able to pre-order the robot for $499, or $599 for the developer edition, for shipping by December 2015.

“What if technology helps you like a partner rather than simply being a tool? That’s what Jibo is about,” says Breazeal.

Here’s a quick look at what Jibo is expected to do:

Assistant: Politely reminds you of important tasks and events to help you stay on top of things.

Messenger: Recognizes you and each member of your household, to deliver the right messages to the right people at the right time & place.

Photographer: Uses natural cues like movement, speech, and smile detection to know when someone’s posing for a picture.

Avatar: See-and-track camera makes it easy to turn and look at people, to support video calling as if you are in the room.

Storyteller: Sound effects, graphics and physical movements make a responsive and interactive storytelling experience.

Companion: Physical presence with helpfulness and heart, JIBO will put a smile on your face and make you feel better.

More than 4,800 Jibos were pre-ordered, 28 percent of which were developer editions and upgrades.  The company plans a full public release in the summer of 2016.

Currently, Jibo is available only through the Jibo website.


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