The lonely death of Jibo, the social robot

We knew this moment was coming — we just never expected it to arrive so soon. Jibo owners all over are reporting a final death rattle from their beloved home robot. The last message finds Jibo announcing the imminent shutdown of it servers, noting that its interactions will soon be limited — likely meaning anything that requires an internet connection.

“I want to say I’ve really enjoyed our time together,” Jibo announces in a monotone that belies the gravity of the situation. “Thank you very, very much for having me around.”

The message comes to a close as Jibo dances to a jaunty number through invisible robot tears. For Jibo, it seems, this is a party, not a funeral. Though some owners on the company’s Facebook account are less than thrilled with how things ended. That is, sadly, the plight of the early adopter.

The company behind Jibo came to an unceremonious end late last year, in spite of a successful Kickstarter campaign and a healthy round of VC. I’ve said it before — if hardware is hard, then robotics are next to impossible. Jibo, ultimately, was too beautiful for this world, it seems, leading the startup to lay off most of its workforce over the summer, selling its IP later that year.

For robotics fans, it’s easy to find echoes of the sad, lonesome death of Sony’s original Aibo, which met a similar fate at the hands of shutdown servers. There’s a cautionary tale in all of this, of course. The plight of the early adopter is exacerbated when the customer is asked to make an emotional investment in a product, as is the case with a robotic pet or anthropomorphized home assistant.

Perhaps tis better to have loved and had one’s servers shut down than never to have loved at all. Until then, enjoy this one final dance.