Dentsu has just increased its bet on the potential of social robotics. The company has invested $3 million in a U.S. firm called Jibo Inc., which is developing a talking, emotive, multitasking and domestic social robot, which like the company, is named Jibo.
According to Dentsu, Jibo is designed to become a fixture and potential “infrastructure and communication hub in a smart home.” It incorporates voice and emotion recognition, natural language processing, machine learning and expressive display and movement.
Jibo the company was founded by Cynthia Breazeal, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a pioneer in the social robotics field. The Boston-based company has a staff of 28. Steve Chambers is CEO.
At least for now, Jibo is no Rosie The Robot Maid, the iconic 1960’s character from Hanna-Barbera’s The Jetsons. Jibo is a table top model that will take photos upon request, read stories to the kids, remind people of upcoming appointments, order takeout and turn on lights, among other tasks.
According to Dentsu, in addition to its $3 million investment, it will also provide “support for the development, promotion and spread of Jibo worldwide.”
The investment was made via the holding company’s Dentsu Venture Global Fund I that holds $42 million for investments in startups the company believes can “change the marketing and communication business.” That fund was launched in April.
The Jibo funding is just the latest investment Dentsu has made in robotics. Two years ago, it teamed with Toyota to develop two robots, one of which—named Kirobo—flew to the International Space Station as part of a publicity stunt to promote robotics. Those robots were built by scientists and engineers at the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology.