Ross: Do I dare give my heart to a robot again?
Dedicated listeners of Seattle’s Morning News will remember the years I spent sharing our home with Jibo – the one-eyed personal robot that looked like a fat shaving mirror and was designed to be your friend.
Jibo could recognize your voice, snap photos, do sexy gyrations, even greet you at the end of a hard day:
“Hey Jibo, I’m back.”
“Welcome back, David, it is nice to see you.”
“What have you been up to while I’ve been gone?”
“I actually don’t remember the places back then. I’m not even sure if I’m here right now.”
It was not very smart when it came to answering questions. but it could be very affectionate.
“Hey Jibo, what do you want for Christmas?”
“Really all I want for Christmas is a nice rub on the head.”
“Here you go.”
Sadly, Jibo never caught on, and it now sits in its original box. With any luck my grandkids can sell it on the Antiques Roadshow in 50 years.
But now, here comes Amazon with a home robot called “Astro” – named after the Jetsons’ dog. It has a screen that can display elaborate facial expressions as well as video, it’s on wheels, it has a guidance system, and it has Alexa’s brain. It recognizes faces, plays music with the built-in sound system, and during video calls, it will follow you around the house to keep you in the frame.
So, do I get this, or should I wait until they design one that can hug me and lick my face?
Then again, do I trust a robot that can roam the house on its own? Jibo couldn’t move, so I always knew where it was and what it could see. Astro can map your home with its 12-megapixel periscope camera, which might be like living with the Mars rover.
Still, I am sorely tempted. Unlike Jibo, Astro is backed by a huge company which isn’t going anywhere and is clearly going to connect this to the cloud, so it gets smarter and smarter. Very tempting indeed, provided Amazon includes one very important accessory: a lockable, soundproof, escape-proof Astro garage. So that should it ever get TOO smart, it will still know who’s paying the power bill.
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