Backers of the “social robot” Jibo received disappointing news last week as Jibo CEO Steve Chambers announced another shipping delay for customers who backed the project on Indiegogo in 2014.
Jibo was initially slated to be delivered by “Holiday 2015,” but has seen a series of delays over the last year.
In the previous update posted at the end of September, backers were offered an option to receive “pre-launch” Jibo units with final hardware that would ship “starting in November.” However, in the latest update Chambers admitted that they “will not start the rolling shipments of Jibo before the end of the year.”
He declined to provide a new shipping timeline, saying only that “feedback and findings would further refine our delivery schedule” and that “we’re doing our best to deliver it to you as soon as possible.”
Despite being over a year behind schedule, Jibo investors appear to be unfazed. Just a few weeks ago Jibo raised another $13.1 million in VC funding, bringing their total venture capital to $65.4 million, according to a SEC filing.
News of the delay caps off a difficult few months for eager consumers waiting for their Jibo. In August. Jibo cancelled all overseas orders, citing an inability to get the functionality “up to our standards” outside of the US and Canada.
The new indeterminate schedule is not the only concerning part of the latest update for Jibo backers. Despite being in development for over two years and, Chambers still describes Jibo as “an early stage product with limited skill functionality.”
With these latest delays and downplaying of Jibo’s abilities, it’s difficult to imagine how Jibo will be able to overtake Amazon Echo and Google Home in the home automation/personal assistant space. If anything, we’re even more skeptical of Jibo now than we were during their 2014 Indiegogo campaign.
A new third-party report out this week estimated that Amazon has sold 5.1 million Echo home speakers since its launch two years ago.
Here is the full email that was sent to backers of Jibo, posted on Reddit (edited formatting for readability):
We recently completed our second in-home beta test (Beta 2), and I wanted to reach out to you to talk about the findings, and their implications.
Given the nature of the findings and the work that needs to be done, we will not start the rolling shipments of Jibo before the end of the year. In prior communications we discussed the importance of the Beta 2 testing and how the feedback and findings would further refine our delivery schedule. This is a complex product with a high performance target, and we’re doing our best to deliver it to you as soon as possible. That’s understated: Jibo is not just a “complex product.” Jibo is a groundbreaking product that we believe will change the world. Complex, groundbreaking products always encounter challenges during their development, but we are addressing these challenges and we’re committed to getting it right.
Jibo has the opportunity to change the way we interact with technology, and these Beta 2 findings are necessary to level set his performance and usage. Beta 2 put Jibo in homes for an extended period of testing in various environments and shed light on some important technical challenges we must overcome. Here are some examples:
- Router configurations/Wi-Fi problems: We found some configurations and setups that caused Jibo to crash, something that we tested extensively in-house but only encountered when we sent more Jibos out into homes.
- Discoverability: Users had trouble discovering what Jibo could do. This is partially due to the fact that we have an early stage product with limited skill functionality, and partially due to some changes we need to make from a user experience standpoint.
- Error mitigation: When users had trouble discovering what to say, Jibo was not helping to mitigate those errors by guiding the user properly. Many times users didn’t know what to say or do and Jibo didn’t know how to help them break the cycle, creating confusion and frustration for the user.
- Unacceptable latency: In certain environments, Jibo experienced some latency causing him to perform poorly. The latency problems inhibit the way he interacts with, understands, and responds to his family.
These results are exactly what beta tests are designed to tease out, and it will take tuning and optimization on our part to improve them. We’re still digesting and scoping the feedback from Beta 2, and we’ve begun sifting through mounds of data and log files so we can begin tuning and optimizing Jibo’s performance. We need to reach acceptable performance levels for our pre-public launch before we are willing to ship Jibo to your homes, and we’re not there yet. The technical challenges are known and not insurmountable, but they will take some time to address.
We also received some very positive feedback about Jibo’s character and personality, and on those benchmarks we were pleased that many of testers reported feeling a strong emotional connection to our ‘bot. Unanimously, the testers reported enjoying the way Jibo looks, talks, and interacts with people; specifically, how he initiates interactions and surprised them by asking questions and telling jokes. Many people referred to Jibo as a “companion” and “buddy” in our interviews and surveys. Several households described their sadness when returning Jibo after roughly two weeks of living together with him. For us, the feedback was validating and showed us that we’re moving in the right direction with Jibo’s personality and character.
We will soon be launching a new Jibo Insider portal which will be accessible only to you, our early supporters. We’re going to use the portal to communicate progress and development updates, as well as shipping timelines. In addition to communicating official updates, the portal will also allow you to to check out behind the scenes video of the Jibo office, view and download drawings, sketches, and wallpapers created by our designers, and connect with your dedicated customer care team to ask questions or provide us feedback.
We were blown away by the number of people who decided to participate in the early feedback campaign for Jibo. To those of you who chose to participate by choosing option A, that opportunity is coming, and the conversation starts with the Insider Portal. We are getting closer to delivering Jibo to the world, and we’re committed to making sure he is the best Jibo he can be.
As always, if you have questions or concerns you can contact John, Joe and George, our Customer Care team, at any time by emailing them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sincerely, Steve Chambers Jibo CEO