Jibo won’t be available outside the United States and Canada anytime soon, the company announced via an email (read below) to overseas backers. The company said “Jibo won’t function up to our standards in your country,” and that it has plans “to expand to some international markets in late 2017.”
Here’s the email Jibo sent to its overseas backers:
“Dear Jibo Supporters,
“We need to share with you some important information about your Jibo Indiegogo and InDemand pre-orders. After exploring all the options, we have come to the conclusion that we will not be able to deliver Jibo to your country. The reason is clear: Jibo won’t function up to our standards in your country. We know this is disappointing news and that many of you have been looking forward to Jibo’s arrival since our campaign first launched, and for that we’re truly sorry. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate your support of Jibo and our vision, and to do right by you, we will issue full refunds to all pre-order customers in your country.”
Robotics Trends reached out to Jibo, but the company declined to comment.
Jibo is the most successful crowdfunded robot ever, raising $3,710,410 (2,288% funded) on Indiegogo when its campaign closed on September 15, 2014. Many of Jibo’s backers, of course, were outside the US and Canada, raising questions about why Jibo didn’t alert its international customers about this earlier. Jibo addressed this issue on its FAQ page about refunds for overseas customers:
“At the time of our original Indiegogo campaign, we believed we would be able to deliver the Jibo experience to English speakers throughout the world. Over time, through in-depth technical and market exploration, we learned operating servers from the US creates performance latency issues; from a voice-recognition perspective, those servers in the US will create more issues with Jibo’s ability to understand accented English than we view as acceptable. Additionally, given rapidly changing consumer-privacy laws, remote servers in the US providing services and content to other countries have been subject to extensive privacy regulation and legislation in many non-US countries, creating further barriers to providing you with the full Jibo experience you expect and deserve.”
The company said the solution is to have a “fully localized Jibo” in different countries. For example, a Jibo that speaks and understands Japanese with servers located in Japan, or a German-speaking Jibo built with servers located in Germany.
Jibo said it “exhausted every avenue possible for delivering a successful Jibo experience to markets outside of the US and Canada.” However, based on comments on Jibo’s Facebook page and a Jibo Reddit thread, the social robot’s early adopters don’t seem to be buying that answer.
Peter Buchanan, a commenter on Jibo’s Facebook page, wrote: “Wow, in 2016 not being able to ship an IT product to the UK for latency issues ….. That’s an epic fail.” And a Reddit user named “rumborak” said “a quick ‘ping’ to a Europe-based machine could have told them that 2 years ago of course.”
In June 2016, interestingly, a Jibo team that included founder Cynthia Breazeal and CEO Steve Chambers visited Beijing to announce their cooperation with NetPosa, a video/audio processing and storage company, and to introduce Jibo to the Chinese market. Below is a video of a presentation in Beijing that demos some of Jibo’s skills:
Jibo was supposed to ship to its earliest Indiegogo backers by September 2015. That didn’t happen, of course, as the social robot missed a couple of deadlines as it needed “a little more time for practicing my skills and getting better at talking with you, so I can become the best Jibo I can be.”
Breazeal and Chambers recently said Jibo will start shipping in the “October 2016 timeframe,” and the company sent an email asking people to confirm their spot on a pre-order waitlist that gives them the first opportunity to pre-order the social robot.
Robotics Trends recently spoke with two prominent industry analysts who expressed concerns about Jibo. While working for Lux Research, Maryanna Saenko, now head of ?ventures at A by Airbus Group, said “Jibo is experiencing the crush of many crowdfunded campaigns – over-promising technology, a ridiculous time crunch, and a hoard of expectant backers wondering where their new toy is.” Another analyst said any delays “could have serious repercussions” to Jibo’s future.
We’ll have to wait and see the repercussions from this latest announcement, but it appears to be another major disappointment for the “world’s first social robot” that once seemed so promising. It will be an uphill battle for Jibo to overcome multiple delays, poor communication with backers, and a market that has become more crowded by the day, especially with Amazon Echo selling so well and the pending arrival of Google Home.