$900 Robot Commits Adorable Seppuku, Showing Again How In The Modern Era You Don't Own What You Buy

from the very-expensive-paperweight dept

Here at Techdirt we've talked a lot about how in the modern, internet-connected era, you don't really own the things you buy. For over a decade we've shown how your digital books, music, or films can simply and quickly disappear without much recourse. The game console you've bought can be suddenly and mysteriously downgraded via firmware update, leaving you with a product that actually does less than the one you bought. And more and more frequently, companies are going further and completely bricking products they no longer want to support, leaving consumers with a pricey paperweight.

The latest case in point: many consumers shelled out upwards of $900 for a twelve-inch tall "social" robot by the name of Jibo. Started as a research project at MIT, Jibo was crowdfunded then marketed as the "the first social robot for the home." First sold in 2017, the robot offered some basic interactive functionality much like similar products, promising to offer a digital home assistant with a little more personality. Reviewers were generally not all that impressed, saying the product had charm but lacked functionality:

Elbowed out by better products, Jibo was ultimately forced to scuttle the effort, and last year sold off all of its assets to a VC firm. And because Jibo's owners were forced to shut down the servers that powered much of the robot's functionality, owners of the $900 robot have since reported that Jibo has been informing them that it's dying just a few years after it was created, delivering one final pre-programmed message before the lights go dark and consumers are left with a useless relic:

Consumers get a cute song and dance, but no recourse for the fact they bought a $900 robot that's now utterly useless, barring some creative hacking. It's yet another example of how in the internet of things era, endless attention is given to marketing and hype, and little to real-world questions like "what happens when the servers go dark?" or "why does this product have paper mache grade security?" By the time those questions are seriously asked, companies that hype and sell these kinds of products have already moved on to the next great thing, leaving consumers (and in the case of security -- the entire internet) left holding the bag.

Filed Under: iot, jibo, ownership, robots, social robot


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  1. icon
    Qwertygiy (profile), 15 Mar 2019 @ 4:09pm

    Re: ownership

    Not quite the same thing. Estate taxes are paid for owning a plot of land that is located within the domain of the government. City government, state government, federal government, whichever.

    That same logic applies to most taxes. Income taxes are paid for having a job that is located within the domain of the government. Sales taxes are paid for selling an item that is located within the domain of the government.

    But the government doesn't own my job. They can't just choose to fire me. They don't own my business. They can't just walk in and eat items off my shelves as they please. They don't own my house. They can't just come in and remodel the bathroom.

    This logic applies to subscriptions, not purchases. I don't own a Netflix. I own a subscription to Netflix. I don't own a copy of ESPN. I own a subscription to a cable service that includes ESPN. I don't own a copy of XBOX Live. It is a recurring payment for the right to use something, just like a tax is.

    But I do own an XBOX. I paid for it once and that was it, now I can do whatever I like with it. I do own an HDTV. LG won't come and take it away if I don't pay them every month.

    In short: No, the government doesn't own my house. However, owning a house includes a mandatory subscription to the government for the right to own a house within their jurisdiction.


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