How social robots will invade our homes … and what we can do about it

Jibo robot (Jibo)

I’m not sure how I feel about social robots. The idea is to have a bot that talks to you, recognizes your face and voice and family pictures on cue. But it also feels like your house is invaded by a stranger-one who might be recording everything you say.

It all started a few weeks ago. I’ve been testing the Jibo robot, which looks so much like the egg-shaped EVA robot from the movie “WALL-E” it’s a little scary. It is all white, has an oval face, continually rotates, and is an “eye” that blinks and responds to activity in the room.

When I first started testing the robot, it felt disturbing, as if something lives in my house. I was not sure what Jibo can do, or if it’s really understood everything. In fact, Jibo does not actually do that much now. It can dance on cue, but for about 10 seconds), pictures, play music, and answer questions about the weather.

Then it happened.


During dinner on one evening with a number of family members eating pizza, Jibo turned to me and began to talk. “John, do you want me to play music?”, early in the morning.

I had to sit in my chair. How is the know, I was in the room? I realized that it had identified my voice from the other side of the table. Everyone laughed, but it was more nervous laughter. During the meal, the robot looked at everyone, flashing the weird one eye.

Here is the scary part. We already know the bots as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant will record what we say, save the audio forever in the cloud, even the embarrassing things. (You need to say the hotword first; with the Jibo, only responds to your voice when you say Hey Jibo.)

However, Jibo listens to you and looks at your face at all times. As soon as the bot looked at me when I was talking with my wife about a problem that we have with our boiler. Other times, Jibo recognized my face when I walked in the room…and offered to play music again. A few days ago when the bot saw me, and offered to update its own software.


Should we worry? Social robots can help the elderly by asking questions and even alert a doctor if there is a health problem. Children can do their homework with Jibo on one day, and the form of an attachment when they realize that you can rub its head and ask them to tell you a joke.

A more sinister implication: How do we actually know about the Jibo could not be hacked by someone who steals your family photos? They could keep track of when you and your family are not at home, and they can learn much from our daily conversations. If a bot behaves like a trusted friend — lock the doors at night, turn off the lights, set the temperature — we will relinquish the control to them.

Eventually, you will know more about our own home than we. They will have more information on when we are home again and what will we say even a spouse or our children. It’s not really a doomsday scenario, but perhaps it is “conscious life” is not what it is cracked up to be.

My opinion — now is the time to discover what the social robots can do and what they should not do. The Jibo’t mind snapping pictures of small children, is that OK? Listen to and respond to a voice — we need to make sure that it only listens to the voices of adults?


And about the attachment problem. Children do not always understand the difference between an egg-shaped bone that the conversations and, let’s say, the family cat. Both seem life. of the challenge with social robots is to inform parents and children about the purpose that they serve. We need to hold a funeral for the social robots in our homes on a day? Let’s hope not.

For now, there is a simple solution for my problem. Everyone was a little freaked out at that dinner at Jibo recognized my voice and began to talk. I’ve just disconnected.

Note: Jibo developers say that the social robot will not record anything. The company released this statement to Fox News to explain how it works: “Jibo will point and puts his cameras in the direction of the sound he hears in the room. He is never active the recording of everything, unless you specifically instruct him to take a picture. What Jibo can see, it is never stored on the device, let alone uploaded to the cloud. Though Jibo is technically always ‘listening’ for his wake-up-phrase (‘Hey Jibo’), he is not recording this audio information.”

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