$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
    Uriel-238 (profile), 18 Mar 2019 @ 12:47pm

    Heh, I just realized this makes an argument for Basic Income

    Human beings in my experience doing social work, are crazy industrious. Sure, those who suffer from major depression may couch-potato out for months at a time, but the rest of us get antsy, bored, stir-crazy. Even when we don't have to worry about electric bills or where our next meal is coming from, we start jonesing for something productive to do.

    So what do we do? Some of us build models, or write fan fiction or volunteer at soup kitchens or turn our Terraria worlds into giant calculators (thereby teaching ourselves electronics logic) or creating giant sculptures in Minecraft.

    Some of us become computer gurus who go to MUGs or PCUGs or LUGs every week to share our ninja skills with other users. (Do Mac users and Linux users still try to convert Windows users?)

    And some of us take toys that are broken (including toys broken at the corporate service end) and fix them or repurpose them. When researching the new Hello Barbie doll I found a hobbyist hacking My Friend Cayla to customize her conversation, and had created a better user interface for the doll's Android app.

    One thing we've determined about capitalism is that it's really shitty at rewarding people for the work they do, except when it's appreciated by someone who already has money (typically not the public) and even then our plutocrats are known being super opinionated and not tipping well.

    Basic income would fuel end-user cross services, including a lot of (currently under-supported) open-source projects to get additional support that rich capitalists aren't willing to support. Granted some of them will be unpopular and stupid. But some of them will be really useful, especially to those of us who don't have gazillions to into projects.

    Would BI waste more income than our current system which funnels money into the coffers of those who manufacture addictive schlock (and addictive drugs)? I'm guessing probably not.

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