The day could be almost here for early backers of Jibo, the family robot that has been delayed for nearly two years after a successful $3.6 million crowdfunding campaign in 2014.
In an email to Indiegogo backers on Wednesday, Jibo CEO Steve Chambers said the Boston startup will start shipping the family robot to 2,500 backers who are part of an early access program on September 18, with all shipments scheduled for completion by the week of October 30. The email’s text was posted to Reddit, which BostInno later verified with a Jibo backer on Friday. The company did not immediately respond to a request to reproduce the email.
If Jibo can deliver on its new promise to backers, it will mark an important milestone for the company, which has raised over $70 million from investors and received national headlines for its ambitious artificial intelligence project. Jibo’s original release date was set for fall 2015, but it has been delayed several times — to the point where it was “TBA 2017” for most of this year — which the company has attributed to the robot’s complex nature. The company also decided to cancel international orders due to server latency issues that were making it difficult for the robot to understand accented English.
“The one hard problem is making it all work in this beautiful and seamless way,” Breazeal told BostInno for a feature on Jibo earlier this year, “but that means there are many problems you have to address to make that happen.”
The early access program was first announced a year ago, when Indiegogo backers were given an option to either receive a “pre-launch” version of Jibo with incomplete software or wait longer for the robot’s public version. In that announcement and the email sent this week, the company did not say when Jibo’s public launch would happen.
“During this early access period, Jibo will still be in a developmental stage. This means that while you’ll have first access to a powerful, maturing robot whose potential is virtually limitless, we’ll continue to optimize and improve Jibo,” Chambers said in the new email to backers. “Jibo’s platform will support many future capabilities and improvements, all of which will be introduced automatically over-the-air by Jibo, Inc. We look forward to providing new, exciting announcements about his evolving features in the coming months.”
Chambers said the company is “confident that you and your family and friends will bond with Jibo right out of the box.” He said the robot will be able to do a number of things, including taking a picture, tell jokes, dance, recognize up to 16 people in a family and tell people things such as who won yesterday’s baseball game or next week’s weather forecast.
“With every interaction he has, he’s learning and sharpening his skills,” Chambers said.