Jibo Won’t Ship Outside US, Canada

The social robot Jibo won't be available outside the US and Canada anytime soon due to "performance latency issues."


Jibo won’t be available outside the United States and Canada anytime soon, the company announced via an email (read below) to overseas backers. The company said “Jibo won’t function up to our standards in your country,” and that it has plans “to expand to some international markets in late 2017.”

Here’s the email Jibo sent to its overseas backers:

“Dear Jibo Supporters,

“We need to share with you some important information about your Jibo Indiegogo and InDemand pre-orders. After exploring all the options, we have come to the conclusion that we will not be able to deliver Jibo to your country. The reason is clear: Jibo won’t function up to our standards in your country. We know this is disappointing news and that many of you have been looking forward to Jibo’s arrival since our campaign first launched, and for that we’re truly sorry. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate your support of Jibo and our vision, and to do right by you, we will issue full refunds to all pre-order customers in your country.”

Robotics Trends reached out to Jibo, but the company declined to comment.

Jibo is the most successful crowdfunded robot ever, raising $3,710,410 (2,288% funded) on Indiegogo when its campaign closed on September 15, 2014. Many of Jibo’s backers, of course, were outside the US and Canada, raising questions about why Jibo didn’t alert its international customers about this earlier. Jibo addressed this issue on its FAQ page about refunds for overseas customers:

“At the time of our original Indiegogo campaign, we believed we would be able to deliver the Jibo experience to English speakers throughout the world. Over time, through in-depth technical and market exploration, we learned operating servers from the US creates performance latency issues; from a voice-recognition perspective, those servers in the US will create more issues with Jibo’s ability to understand accented English than we view as acceptable. Additionally, given rapidly changing consumer-privacy laws, remote servers in the US providing services and content to other countries have been subject to extensive privacy regulation and legislation in many non-US countries, creating further barriers to providing you with the full Jibo experience you expect and deserve.”

The company said the solution is to have a “fully localized Jibo” in different countries. For example, a Jibo that speaks and understands Japanese with servers located in Japan, or a German-speaking Jibo built with servers located in Germany.

Wow, in 2016 not being able to ship an IT product to the UK for latency issues ..... That’s an epic fail. - Peter Buchanan

Jibo said it “exhausted every avenue possible for delivering a successful Jibo experience to markets outside of the US and Canada.” However, based on comments on Jibo’s Facebook page and a Jibo Reddit thread, the social robot’s early adopters don’t seem to be buying that answer.

Peter Buchanan, a commenter on Jibo’s Facebook page, wrote: “Wow, in 2016 not being able to ship an IT product to the UK for latency issues ..... That’s an epic fail.” And a Reddit user named “rumborak” said “a quick ‘ping’ to a Europe-based machine could have told them that 2 years ago of course.”

In June 2016, interestingly, a Jibo team that included founder Cynthia Breazeal and CEO Steve Chambers visited Beijing to announce their cooperation with NetPosa, a video/audio processing and storage company, and to introduce Jibo to the Chinese market. Below is a video of a presentation in Beijing that demos some of Jibo’s skills:

Jibo was supposed to ship to its earliest Indiegogo backers by September 2015. That didn’t happen, of course, as the social robot missed a couple of deadlines as it needed “a little more time for practicing my skills and getting better at talking with you, so I can become the best Jibo I can be.”

Breazeal and Chambers recently said Jibo will start shipping in the “October 2016 timeframe,” and the company sent an email asking people to confirm their spot on a pre-order waitlist that gives them the first opportunity to pre-order the social robot.

Robotics Trends recently spoke with two prominent industry analysts who expressed concerns about Jibo. While working for Lux Research, Maryanna Saenko, now head of ‎ventures at A³ by Airbus Group, said “Jibo is experiencing the crush of many crowdfunded campaigns - over-promising technology, a ridiculous time crunch, and a hoard of expectant backers wondering where their new toy is.” Another analyst said any delays “could have serious repercussions” to Jibo’s future.

We’ll have to wait and see the repercussions from this latest announcement, but it appears to be another major disappointment for the “world’s first social robot” that once seemed so promising. It will be an uphill battle for Jibo to overcome multiple delays, poor communication with backers, and a market that has become more crowded by the day, especially with Amazon Echo selling so well and the pending arrival of Google Home.




About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe: scrowe@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.




Comments

Vexelius · August 10, 2016 · 3:12 pm

The “international expansion” promise is a big contradiction. One of my friends begged them to give him a Jibo, even if that meant waiting another year and letting them keep his money… And, although he received no reply, they modified the FAQ with this:

Can I choose not to receive a refund and wait until Jibo is available in my country?
Though we are extremely committed to our international supporters, we are unable to provide a timeline for delivery into every market. Because of this, we think the most fair solution is to provide you with a refund.

If they really have plans for an international expansion, why wouldn’t they accept his request? Why force every international user to take a refund now?  I think that they are only promising an “international expansion” to appease their investors.

Steve Crowe · August 10, 2016 · 2:41 pm

I didn’t back them, but if I did I’d be pissed about two things: 1) Being strung along for two years 2) Saying some international expansion is planned for late 2017.

If the latency issue is real, they had to have known about this a long time ago. And why mention international expansion as even a possibility other than trying to keep people onboard?

Vexelius · August 10, 2016 · 2:34 pm

Back in 2014, I had been out of college for 2 years and the only thing I missed was being able to experiment with the lab robots. I have always been interested in AI and HRI, so when I knew about Jibo… I knew I had to back up the project.

I pictured using it as a platform that could be used to help humans in emotional situations: Depression, loneliness, stress, anger issues. I had read about Cynthia Breazeal’s work before and that gave me enough incentive to trust in a crowdfunding campaign. At first, the robot was only meant to be shipped to North America and Europe, so I convinced a group of friends to back up the project in exchange for our region to be supported. Those days, the team was quick to answer and we did our best to get more people to support the campaign in latin america. We even set up a facebook fan site (https://www.facebook.com/JIBOLatAm/) and subbed their videos into spanish!

That’s why my friends and I feel so betrayed about how this project turned out at the end. We could understand deadline changes, dropping certain features (originally, Jibo was going to have Bluetooth support) and the lack of communication. But we are having a rough time trying to accept the reasons to cancel all international orders… And that, while every deadline change has been announced through a YouTube video, featuring the head of the project and the staff, this unexpected turn of events was communicated through a mass e-mail.

Steve Crowe · August 10, 2016 · 2:14 pm

Hey Vexelius,

Those allegations are certainly troubling. Thanks for pointing them out. I also reached out to them to comment on the story, but they won’t talk. And it will certainly be difficult for Jibo to raise any additional funds, and their current investors can’t be thrilled.

What led you to invest in Jibo back in September 2014? What did you picture using Jibo for?

Vexelius · August 10, 2016 · 1:45 pm

Hello. I am one of the persons who backed up Jibo (750 USD for a robot, developer license and accessory pack) in September 2014 through IndieGoGo.

Unfortunately, I live in Mexico and yesterday I received this vague e-mail telling me that I wasn’t going to receive the robot, because it won’t perform “up to their standards”. However, they offered me a refund… which is only available as a cheque that will arrive in 4-8 weeks. According to them, this is the fastest and most secure way to process the refunds.

I think that this issue is something that should be noted: Why would a tech startup consider using a paper cheque when there are other faster and more reliable methods available? (PayPal, wire transfer, etc…) - We waited 2 years for the robot, and now we are asked to wait again for a refund.

This kind of behavior is really suspicious. In the Jibo subreddit, some users have found that some of the current members of the Jibo team (https://www.reddit.com/r/Jibo/comments/4x1brq/official_faq_about_refund/) have been involved in fraud and questionable tactics in the past.


Vexelius · August 10, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Hello. I am one of the persons who backed up Jibo (750 USD for a robot, developer license and accessory pack) in September 2014 through IndieGoGo.

Unfortunately, I live in Mexico and yesterday I received this vague e-mail telling me that I wasn’t going to receive the robot, because it won’t perform “up to their standards”. However, they offered me a refund… which is only available as a cheque that will arrive in 4-8 weeks. According to them, this is the fastest and most secure way to process the refunds.

I think that this issue is something that should be noted: Why would a tech startup consider using a paper cheque when there are other faster and more reliable methods available? (PayPal, wire transfer, etc…) - We waited 2 years for the robot, and now we are asked to wait again for a refund.

This kind of behavior is really suspicious. In the Jibo subreddit, some users have found that some of the current members of the Jibo team (https://www.reddit.com/r/Jibo/comments/4x1brq/official_faq_about_refund/) have been involved in fraud and questionable tactics in the past.

Steve Crowe · August 10, 2016 at 2:14 pm

Hey Vexelius,

Those allegations are certainly troubling. Thanks for pointing them out. I also reached out to them to comment on the story, but they won’t talk. And it will certainly be difficult for Jibo to raise any additional funds, and their current investors can’t be thrilled.

What led you to invest in Jibo back in September 2014? What did you picture using Jibo for?

Vexelius · August 10, 2016 at 2:34 pm

Back in 2014, I had been out of college for 2 years and the only thing I missed was being able to experiment with the lab robots. I have always been interested in AI and HRI, so when I knew about Jibo… I knew I had to back up the project.

I pictured using it as a platform that could be used to help humans in emotional situations: Depression, loneliness, stress, anger issues. I had read about Cynthia Breazeal’s work before and that gave me enough incentive to trust in a crowdfunding campaign. At first, the robot was only meant to be shipped to North America and Europe, so I convinced a group of friends to back up the project in exchange for our region to be supported. Those days, the team was quick to answer and we did our best to get more people to support the campaign in latin america. We even set up a facebook fan site (https://www.facebook.com/JIBOLatAm/) and subbed their videos into spanish!

That’s why my friends and I feel so betrayed about how this project turned out at the end. We could understand deadline changes, dropping certain features (originally, Jibo was going to have Bluetooth support) and the lack of communication. But we are having a rough time trying to accept the reasons to cancel all international orders… And that, while every deadline change has been announced through a YouTube video, featuring the head of the project and the staff, this unexpected turn of events was communicated through a mass e-mail.

Steve Crowe · August 10, 2016 at 2:41 pm

I didn’t back them, but if I did I’d be pissed about two things: 1) Being strung along for two years 2) Saying some international expansion is planned for late 2017.

If the latency issue is real, they had to have known about this a long time ago. And why mention international expansion as even a possibility other than trying to keep people onboard?

Vexelius · August 10, 2016 at 3:12 pm

The “international expansion” promise is a big contradiction. One of my friends begged them to give him a Jibo, even if that meant waiting another year and letting them keep his money… And, although he received no reply, they modified the FAQ with this:

Can I choose not to receive a refund and wait until Jibo is available in my country?
Though we are extremely committed to our international supporters, we are unable to provide a timeline for delivery into every market. Because of this, we think the most fair solution is to provide you with a refund.

If they really have plans for an international expansion, why wouldn’t they accept his request? Why force every international user to take a refund now?  I think that they are only promising an “international expansion” to appease their investors.


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