$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), 19 Mar 2019 @ 1:06pm

    Favoring work that is productive

    My point was that I disagree with you. Only people combating avolition (regarded as a common symptom of depression) will stay in their houses, drink cheap beer, and watch everything the entertainment industry can produce. That human beings are, as observed by the psychiatric sector, a rather industrious lot.

    Yes, it is a common notion that people are intrinsically lazy, a belief we get from Calvanist protestantism a notion persistent enough to drive western society to force prisoners to turn a crank for their meals (later, the treadmill actually produced a useful output. Both devices resulted in prisoners starving to death for failing meet work quotas). It's the same notion that drove the system of workhouses and drives penal slave labor programs that persist in the US today. So I would submit there is an intrinsic danger in capitalism of bending society towards cruelty, and in some cases, disaster.

    And yet, capitalism doesn't favor all work that is productive and useful, or even essential work. Note how parents do a tuckfun of work that isn't even recognized in the US. Note the quality of life on which teachers subsist. In our society, we regard fetuses as far more valuable than actual children, the welfare benefits of whom our current administration (an administration directed by capitalists) is currently determined to defund.

    There are biases in what work capitalism values and how much it's willing to pay for it. Again, here in the states, most of our workforce are under-employed, earn a pittance for the work they do and have no job security.

    So the question is, do we dare try out a system that may drive people to produce what they want, themselves, (rather than what a capitalist wants) at the risk that no-one else will want it? Considering what capitalism has wrought of our society, such an experiment would have to fail pretty badly to do worse.


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