Boston-based Jibo Inc. has raised $11 million from investors to help its “social robot” expand into Asian markets. The latest round of funding should help Jibo in an increasingly competitive consumer robot space.
Jibo’s eponymous robot has a nonthreatening round body and can communicate through its face screen and voice interface. Jibo is intended to serve as a hands-free personal assistant, capable of providing reminders, recording photos and video, and interacting with Internet of Things devices.
The tabletop robot can also be a companion for the young and elderly and help families stay in contact through telepresence. In addition, Jibo’s algorithms could enable it to learn the user’s preferences, said the company. A software developer’s kit could widen potential uses for Jibo.
Asian partners include telecom firms
Jibo’s investors include Acer Inc., Dentsu Ventures, KDDI, LG Plus Inc., and NetPosa Technologies Ltd. Taiwan-based Acer makes software and hardware, and LG Plus is the No. 3 telecommunications provider in South Korea.
Both technology investment firm Dentsu Ventures and telecom carrier KDDI are in Japan, while NetPosa provides video monitoring and storage products in China.
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“This round of strategic investment, centered in the target markets of Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and China, will be a cornerstone of Jibo’s further expansion into international markets,” said Steve Chambers, CEO of Jibo. “We believe these investments in Jibo highlight the appeal of consumer social robots, and of Jibo himself, in the growing Asia-Pacific market.”
“Our investment in Jibo is based on our view of Jibo as a platform to develop IOB (Internet of Being) services and smart-home applications that may be powered by Acer’s BYOC (Bring Your Own Cloud) or, in the future, may offer enhanced interactivity with Acer Chromebooks in the education sector,” said Jeff Chen, Acer’s chief investment officer.
“We believe Japanese consumers will be ready to bring social robots into their homes soon,” said Kotaro Sasamoto, managing partner of Dentsu Ventures, which is investing $3 million in Jibo, its first project.
Social robots are sold out
Jibo, which also has offices in Redwood City, Calif., raised $3.7 million through Indiegogo and InDemand crowdfunding campaigns. MIT graduate Cynthia Breazeal’s company already raised $25.3 million in Series A financing in January. Jibo’s staff is growing from 30 to about 45 by year’s end.
Although Jibo is perhaps the best-known example, other social robots are emerging, such as SoftBank’s Pepper, Intel’s Jimmy, AKA’s Musio, Amazon’s Echo, and Blue Frog Robotics’ Buddy. The consumer and office robotics market will experience a compound annual growth rate of 17% over the next few years, according to a report from BI Intelligence.Read More