Jibo won’t be shipped abroad due to technical issues
Customers outside the U.S. who are waiting to get their hands on “the world’s first social robot” were incensed this week when they learned that Boston-based Jibo is halting all plans to ship the product internationally due to concerns it won’t be able to understand “accented English.”The robot maker confirmed on Wednesday that it will not be shipping the robot, which costs between $500 and $600, to pre-order customers outside of the U.S. and Canada, and will be offering refunds to all of its international customers.
This is venture-backed Jibo’s latest setback, after the company began offering refunds to pre-order customers who expressed their frustrations about the company’s months-long delay in shipping the product. Company officials said recently they plan to ship the robot to customers in October, instead of the March/April timeframe originally promised.The company blamed the reversal of plans on technical difficulties.”Over time, through in-depth technical and market exploration, we learned operating servers from the US creates performance latency issues; from a voice-recognition perspective, those servers in the US will create more issues with Jibo’s ability to understand accented English than we view as acceptable,” the company said in a statement, also blaming rapidly changing consumer privacy laws around the world.Jibo does plan on expanding to some international markets in late 2017, but it would not disclose details. It suggested that international pre-order customers take advantage of refunds.The company declined to disclose what percentage of its pre-orders came from outside the U.S. and Canada.Boston-based Jibo was billed as the “world’s first family robot” and is the brainchild of Cynthia Breazeal, an MIT roboticist who has spent several years researching social robots. It has been compared in media reports to Amazon’s Echo, and its CEO is Steve Chambers, formerly an executive at Burlington-based speech technology company Nuance (Nasdaq: NUAN), which powers Apple’s Siri.Stefan Lichter, a retired computer animator and entrepreneur in Germany, said he purchased the $600 developer edition of Jibo and is angered by Jibo’s decision to halt international shipments.”Jibo would not work properly in Germany? Why shouldn’t I be able to switch it on here, on my desk, and check it myself, given that the language is English and the voltage is 110V? I am prepared, as this is a a developed country,” he wrote in an email to the Business Journal. “The MIT specialists found that out just now, after two years of making me wait, and working with my financial contribution?”Other international Jibo customers have also begun to express their frustrations online.Jibo garnered widespread publicity in 2014 because it raised $4 million through online crowdfunding campaigns with Indiegogo. Thousands of people pre-ordered the robot at a price of $500, less than the retail price.The company, which launched out of stealth mode with its social robot in 2014, has raised a total of $60 million in investor funding to date.