$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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2019 @ 8:02am

    call it what it is. . Fraud

    If youre buying a subscription, then that should be clear. If you are buying a product, then it should be clear, a subscription, is not defined by ongoing fees, but by the nature of the ongoing control.

    There is already a legal term for Selling a subscription as a product, fraud. Misrepresenting the very nature of things is simply fraud. Unfortunately without small reasonable regulation, by the time most consumers find out, there is no recourse.

    This is a bog problem in enterprises. Even in the foss world there are many dependancies that are not understood. Anyone who states open source is the answer, seems to misunderstand the natire of the problem. Sure in the open source world, you CAN in theory maintain a copy of all the source code you use. But how many of you maintain a copy of all versions of all code you depend on? How many have scrubbed that code against references to things like w3c.org?

    Making sure the stuff you bought continues to work, is not a trivial task in anything that is connected. In the old days, multiplayer functionality, was at best just an exchange, all game play existed on local devices. It was fairly easy to reverse engineer the exchange mechanism. Todays games all run server side for core functionality, which is much more like buying a subscription. The funny thing is that often they charge you a large one time charge for the game, and another recurring charge to play the game.

    This isnt unique to games, many companies work hard to misrepresent what they do as something more valuable than it is. In general, i call that marketing. It is tge bane of modern society. Most marketing campaigns are intending to misrepresent, to induce you to buy.

    Many prople are left continually disappointed by what they actually buy. Oftentimes they are satisfied for awhile, but the bad taste comes when they realize that they bought a $900 for an access device, that itself is encumbered by ip, so they cant even write their own code for it because the patents on the hardware access device got sold to a patent troll.


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