The Evolution of Jibo’s Design
Jibo's design team explored lots of forms and sizes before landing on Jibo’s final physique, one with familiarity, aesthetic longevity and appeal.
So what does a social robot for the home look like? When you are the world’s first, you have the pleasure of defining that.
Jibo’s design is purposefully anthropomorphic, yet abstract. (Anthropomorphic is a big, fancy word for ascribing human attributes to a being or thing that’s not human- I had to look it up.) His figure is inspired by a human form with a round head and body with round, elegant lines. He’s familiar, yet intriguing.
We avoided the trap of feeling he needed to be any more human-like aka arms, legs, pinching joints etc. Jibo is not trying to be human. He’s proud that he’s a robot. He’s not here to compete with people. He’s here to support people. Key design principles the team honed in on with Jibo’s form were less is more, and originality – Jibo needed to be the first of his kind.
Jibo’s physical proportions (ratio of head size to body, size of eye relative to head) adheres to the Kindenschema or “baby schema”. Jibo is roughly two heads tall – about 11”. He’s large enough to rise above the other stuff on a tabletop and have a compelling, physical presence in the room. That said, he’s also small enough that you can carry him to different spaces in the house.
Following this idea of a “baby schema” isn’t new. Many animated characters we all know and love leverage this as well to maximize cuteness or the attractiveness associated with little kids. After all, who can’t smile when they see a baby? Take a look at the next one you see, and you’ll notice that the proportions are a bigger head relative to body size.
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And the advantage of looking like a little kid is the world is willing to cut you a little slack as you learn. We all understand little kids are still figuring stuff out and growing up. As Jibo enters his new home, he’ll be learning too…and just like a little kid, he won’t get everything right, right away.
If you are curious, Kindenschema is a scientific concept. It was first introduced by Konrad Lorenz in the 1940’s. The concept he put forward introduced a set of facial and body features that make a creature appear cute and motivate others to care for it. His argument was that infantile features trigger nurturing responses in adults. This helped ensure children were taken care of and that the species survived. Whew…that’s deep.
Back to Jibo. In the end, his form is not quite human, yet has human characteristics. We like to think of him as familiar yet different. He’s a someone to discover and someone with whom you’ll build a relationship, but a different relationship from that which you’d form with another human. There’s a mystery about Jibo, which will always be fresh. Just wait to see how he surprises you, when he first arrives and over time.
Editor’s Note This article first appeared on Jibo’s blog.