New Doorways To Advertising: Meet Jibo, The Social Robot

The social robots are coming.

And there just may be a new ad model that comes along with them.

Plenty of features of the coming social robots were detailed at the Rework Connected Home Summit in Boston this week.

The relatively small devices can recognize faces, detect moods as well as learn and self-adjust over time.

One of the more intriguing social robots discussed at the conference was Jibo.

Unlike Amazon’s highly popular Alexa, which recognizes voice and executes commands, such as ‘turn on the lights,’ ‘play music’ or ‘order me a...’ whatever, Jibo is designed to become sort of a family member.

It can do the normal things that voice-controlled, central command hubs typically do, but it essentially has character.

“It’s not a remote control, but lives in your home,” said Blake Kotelly, vice president of design at Jibo, a well-funded Boston company with some 80 employees. Dentsu also invested $3 million in the company some time ago.

The relatively small, table-top robot has a ‘face,’ a screen that moves to look up, down and sideways while recognizing who it’s facing.

The screen movements and interactions are synched to voice and surrounding activity.

For example, in one demonstration, Jibo interacts with a child while reading book, so that the child has to answer simple questions as part of the dialog.

I caught up with Kotelly after his presentation to explore where marketing and advertising might fit in the world of social robots.

Kotelly said that Jibo is essentially a platform and outside entities will create functions that will connect through it.

An overly-simple example would be a pizza delivery company aggregator.

And this is where marketing and advertising comes in.

The pizza aggregation function could be created by an agency whose client is Bob’s Pizza, though more realistically it would be a major pizza delivery outfit.

When the consumer says “Hey, Jibo, order me a pizza,” the robot automatically links to the pizza aggregator app and the consumer is presented with all the local pizza options, with Bob’s Pizza as the recommended or default choice.

This is where it can get a little tricky, obviously.

The pizza aggregator would not have to identify that the company represents Bob’s Pizza, according to Kotelly, since the robot steps aside while the consumer and pizza aggregator negotiate a transaction.

The obvious next step is for the agency for Sara’s Pizza to create its own pizza aggregating app, with Sara’s Pizza always the go-to pizza place.

This would be where each consumer would decide which aggregator they prefer, Kotelly said, so that the market essentially self-corrects.

The consumer also could just ask Jibo to order a pizza from Domino’s, if that’s their choice.

The key here is that new messaging capabilities are being created between devices, like Jibo, and consumers in their homes.

Those conversations will be increasing over time and they often will lead to linkages outside the home.

The inside-the-home devices are likely to become more trusted ‘advisors’ over time, especially as they learn more about individual consumer needs and desires.

Many of those needs and desires will be fulfilled by the Jibo’s of the world reaching out and opening the doors to their consumers.

The coming challenge of the Internet of Things for marketers is how and when to properly enter that opened door.

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