If you enjoy asking Amazon’s Alexa for riddles or to tell you the height of the Statue of Liberty (305 feet), then you might take a liking to the latest in smart home robots, the Jibo. This home robot takes the speaking capabilities of Alexa and combines it with an expressive body and screen (face).
Jibo is among the first wave of social robots you can purchase for your home. When compared with Amazon’s Alexa, it comes up short in a few areas and exceeds expectations in others.
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What, exactly, is a Jibo?
Everyone knows Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. They need no introduction and are perhaps the most well-known home AI assistant on the market today. As a result of their popularity, they set the standard for what users expect from an AI device. They want answers to their questions, a hub through which they can control their connected devices, and a way to play music.
The next logical step in home AI is a device that can read a room and the situation and determine what, if any, tasks should be initiated. It could also begin social interactions via face recognition functionality. Think of a device like your Nest Thermostat, which senses its surrounding environment and makes the necessary adjustments, but give it a flashy hardware “body” and a more developed AI.
Implementing social capabilities to a smart home device accomplishes a few things. It can provide users a simple form of entertainment or a level of companionship. Additionally, it can create a shortcut which shows people the proper way to engage and interact with the robot.
The Jibo is essentially a robot that responds in much the same way a human being would. In doing so, the company is making it easier for users to understand what the robot can say and do. For example, setting up the Jibo requires talking to the robot, just like you would another person. This type of robot could be fun, friendly, and intuitive, all while acting as a central hub for your more complex smart home system.
Jibo is a mixture of three elements: it’s an Ai that can have simple conversations and determine its surroundings, it has a rectangular interactive screen, and it has a three-axis body which consists of a spherical “head” and a cylindrical “torso.” Using its two built-in cameras, Jibo can recognize faces, even in low light settings. Unfortunately, the camera isn’t as high-quality as you might expect, so photos turn out grainy and low-quality.
Hardware and software components work together on Jibo to give it the appearance of human interaction. It will gyrate, tell you a corny joke, and mimic body language as the situation dictates. Primarily, you’ll want to leave Jibo plugged into its power source so it will always be available, however, if you’re going to move your Jibo around with you, its battery will last roughly thirty minutes to an hour.
You have the option to interact with Jibo just like you do with Amazon Alexa. Simply say “Hey Jibo,” ask it a question, and Jibo will respond. However, unlike Alexa, Jibo can initiate conversations as well. If it senses noise or movement, Jibo will move its body to watch. It has the ability to connect faces with names, and when recognizing someone might ask how they are, how they slept, or if they would like to play a game.
Like Alexa, Jibo can perform many other functions. It can answer questions about trivia, the weather, and many other topics. It can play games, play radio stations, turn on and off your lights, and control other smart devices in your home.
We mentioned that Alexa is well-known in the smart assistant world, but let’s review some of what she is capable of doing. First and foremost, she comes in a wireless speaker, responding to the sound of your voice. She can play music, create to-do lists, search the web, shop online, provides weather reports, and control your smart home devices.
Just by saying “Alexa,” you can summon the digital assistant to perform the above-mentioned tasks and many others. Alexa feels like a natural part of your home and allows you to keep your phone in your pocket while you’re at home.
Now that we’ve established what Jibo is let’s take a look at how it compares with Amazon’s Alexa. The two share some of the same features; however, they have their own unique functionality as well.
For instance, the Alexa is ideal for those that have a lot going on in their home. If you want to be heard above all the din and racket, then you might prefer to have an Alexa device as opposed to Jibo. Alexa is specifically designed to support you with weather and traffic reports and to answer all of your general internet questions.
Jibo makes more sense for those who want a social, physical robot that can take pictures and interact with them on a personal, human level.
Unfortunately for Jibo, Alexa is ahead in the game, with most users having some familiarity with her in some form or another. As she and Google Assistant continue to lead the smart home pack, Jibo is left trying to play catch-up and is, unfortunately, lagging behind.
Alexa can order your shopping, control your smart home devices, get you an Uber, and play some music. Jibo, on the other hand, has a hard time understanding most requests and is unable to do something as simple as creating a to-do list.
If appearance is more important to you than functionality, then the Jibo might be right up your alley. Its round appearance and ability to twist and turn gives it the feeling that you’re interacting with a small child as opposed to a static appliance. Jibo’s pro-active and passive actions encourage you to talk to it, which makes it more appealing than a stationary cylinder.
Sadly for Jibo, it just doesn’t hold many advantages over Alexa. Even Alexa’s voice is more palatable, as she sounds closer to a person than Jibo. Its voice is robotic and professional, not sweet and soothing like Alexa’s. If Jibo had a voice that resembled that of a person, you could almost forget that it is a robot.
Perhaps the most significant advantage Jibo holds over Alexa is in its personality. Jibo is just downright charming. It’s packed with fun animations, witty banter, and as mentioned previously, a body and head that rotate and give him the appearance of something more than just another smart appliance. Jibo can use its round head and body to rotate and make it appear as though it is looking around the room.
Of course, Jibo also comes with two cameras and is able to take pictures, whereas Amazon Alexa cannot. Sure, the pictures are grainy and not great quality, but sometimes having something of poor quality is better than having nothing at all.
Additionally, with its cameras, it can identify up to sixteen people via face recognition. When it hears you, it will turn to you and greet you, which is something Alexa cannot do unless she hears your voice, and even then probably won’t greet you by name. On the contrary, some might find the fact that this robot can talk, recognize you, and take pictures a little bit creepy.
The price difference between Amazon’s Alexa Echo and the Jibo social robot has to be the most significant differentiator between the two. Unless you just really, really want a Jibo to show off to your friends and family, there is little to inspire you to purchase one. Currently, the cost of a Jibo is a bit hefty (Check out the latest rates here!), while you can get an Echo for less (Check out the latest rates here!). You can get one for even less if you’re an Amazon Prime member.
It’s clear from the success of the Amazon Echo that users want to have the ability to interact with their devices in a more human-like way. Jibo is built on the thinking that people are willing to take things a step further in how much personality a robot has. It’s not difficult to see how devices like Jibo will begin to dominate the market in the next few years.
The question is, will people want to continue using static devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, or are they willing to take the next step and have a discussion with a robot like Jibo? Most likely, there will be a good range of preferences, which will require a wide variety of options.
For the time being, and for the purposes of this article, if you’re simply comparing Jibo with Alexa, the clear winner here is Alexa. It just doesn’t make sense to buy a Jibo at this time, especially when the difference in price is really high, and Alexa has more functionality.
Sure, Jibo has its charms, but for the price, it just doesn’t come close to meeting expectations. With some key improvements and changes, Jibo could be the next step in the evolution of home robots, but for now, you’re better off sticking with Alexa.
If you already love Amazon Echo, consider these top 10 smart home devices that talk to Amazon Alexa too! You just might find one that you’ll love even more!
**Note, at the time of this publication, there were no available Jibo units on Amazon due to an issue with production. We’ll keep you updated if they become available.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!