$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
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 Mar 2019 @ 9:20pm

    At some point we allowed them to switch the business model to allow them to make even more & when it no longer earns them enough they can walk away.

    Smart tvs are so cheap, a CEO admitted this (article here somewhere I had finding links), because their model is making cash off of the data they hoover up. People would freak if they had to pay full price is the claim, but how much does it actually cost to make the device?
    How much of their model is shifted to take advantage of hoovering up data?

    Why do we keep allowing them to create devices that require an outside server to function? They can shut down the servers with no notice, brick your device, then offer you a new version with 1 new feature & a new server login on the same servers.

    Its not like there is any real choice, all of the manufacturers do this... they keep mining you for that sweet data cash & when they aren't earning enough we'll force a new device that can gather more. They claim they offer these 'great' features which often seem to be walled garden versions of things that already exist online... I mean really why does each maker need a program guide provider other than to lock you into the model so they can earn a few cents knowing what programs you watch or thought about watching? Its not like there is a signal on each transmission that tells you whats on now, and whats on next for a timeblock or 3 ... how hard would it be to just capture & present that data without requiring me to waste bandwidth to download it over & over so they can make a bit more cash?


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