Peace of Mind on Vacation

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Like most people interested in the advancements in robotics, I am very interested in JIBO who is receiving a lot of recent attention. JIBO is an example of a produt in the market niche known as social robots. It seems to me that vendors in this space often emphasize the personal or emotional value these robots bring to their owners. Honestly, I’m an overwhelmed hard-working guy who would just love to see these things help me out. If I can love a shop vac that performs above and beyond expectations I may just go out and get a heart tattoo on my well-intentioned bicep for a personal robot who can take a load off Daddy. The story below depicts a scenario in which a JIBO armed with appropriate third party hardware and applications provides exceptional emotional value to a typical parent of a family.

The long drive was over and the smell of salt water filled the air. The brief evaluation was over. Walter was happy with the beach house. He had rented it sight-unseen from the owners. It was slightly smaller than he had expected but he thought it should be perfect for his family that included his wife and two young boys. There were, however, a couple of somewhat troubling thoughts on his mind that had to be reconciled before he could really settle peacefully into vacation mode. While his wife and sons sat on the second story deck and watched the ocean waves roll in, Walter broke away to make a phone call.
“We left in such a hurry”, he spoke into his smartphone, “there are a couple of things I want to check.”
“I am hear to help”, answered a pleasant but somewhat inhuman voice.
Walter continued, “For starters I’m not sure I locked the door to the deck. Could you send me a picture of the door handle?”
“I’m on my way”, the voice answered.
“Thanks, JIBO”, Walter replied.
Back at Walter’s home, the small robot with a conical head wheeled towards the deck door. The robot was mounted on a small wheeled platform that allowed it to navigate throughout the first floor. Small LEDs on the platform blinked to indicate functional behavior of various on-board sensors.
“Also, I wanted to set the thermostat. I think I did but I’m not positive. What’s the temperature in the house?”
“For the past twelve hours the house has maintained an average temperature of 77 degrees.” The temperature sensor included in the mobile base allowed the robot to take the reading.
“Great, that’s what it should be.” Walter had been talking about getting smart thermostats for quite a while. I was time to make the move. “You know what, see if you can find me a high-rated smart thermostat for around $100. Send me a form with five options and I’ll pick the one I want you to buy.” This occasion would not be the first time that Walter had JIBO do the legwork for an online purchase. Although Walter never felt overwhelmed by doing this kind of shopping, he actually enjoyed the incredible simplicity of just receiving a display with suitable options and clicking “go” without the hassle of searching and price comparing. Walter briefly recalled times when one of the boys’ friend’s birthdays was approaching an JIBO conveniently presented (and reminded) him with gift options for the upcoming party. JIBO integrated with Amazon and other e-commerce sites and could make purchases on behalf of Walter. A smartphone app managed the communication between the two of them for these transactions and other similar ones.
“Your parents called this morning”, JIBO offered without a leading request. He had been programmed to alert Walter of these events.
Walter was a little alarmed by the infrequent incident. “Could you play me the message?”
This capability was provided by a simple app that did not require any additional recurring fees. JIBO could make phone calls as his platform integrated with the house landline phone. He simply had to dial into the voicemail system, find the appropriate message, make an audio recording of it, and play it back for Walter.
“This will take a little while,” JIBO reminded Walter. “I’m fast but it takes some time to navigate your voicemail service.”
“Don’t worry, you’re not getting fired today”, Walter assured the intelligent robot. “And I got the photo of the deck door. It’s locked, thanks.”
“I have sent you five options for smart thermostat purchases”, JIBO informed Walter.
“I wish I could multitask like you”, Walter said.
“Perhaps you need a firmware upgrade.”
“I taught you that one.” Walter jogged his brain for anything else that would prevent him from relaxing. “The security system is on?”
“I can confirm that the security system is activated and that there have been no alerts since the time of your departure. I will continue to turn on the ZigBee® lights at random night time hours. I can now play back the voicemail message from your parents’ call.”
The message from Walter’s mother indicated that one of his cousins had just had a baby girl. Walter was relieved to hear there was no emergency and would make the appropriate follow up calls when he could.
Walter saw that it was almost sunset. He felt at ease now and knew he could call JIBO whenever he had to. It was nice to have a reliable helper that didn’t sleep.
“Thanks for everything, JIBO”, Walter said. “Recharge when you have to and don’t throw any wild parties while we’re gone.”
“Noted. I will remind the toaster oven.” JIBO answered.
“I taught you that one.”

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