Building From the Wreckage

By Pranav Vetrichelvan

All of you know a failed startup, whether it be a dumb idea or a great one but unknown. Whatever it may be, you know that eventually, something similar will come along and succeed where the old one failed

Robots are, in my opinion, a very common failed startup, as creating a new field of tech without massive funding, almost always leads to bankruptcy. Especially when the item in question wants to be a revolutionary new form.

But, humans, are known for our perseverance, and as a community, we will succeed.

Social Robots

Social robots are, as the name suggests, robots that are social, but they are so much more than that. Ideally, they would be active members of society but programmed by us.

Making food, teaching, daycare, think of any minimum wage job, could a robot do that? If yes, that’s what a social robot will do.

Just to prove how widespread they are, searching up the words

“Social robots” Bring up plenty of applications

Retirement homes for one, caring for the elderly, using workers that never leave, never have to sleep, never have to stop, giving endless emotional and physical care, without having to sleep? Seems like a situation that would benefit everyone. (

But as of right now, we’re stuck.

In more places than one.

Virtual Assistants

Starting in 2010, apple made a virtual assistant on the ios app store, 2 years later, it was integrated with the IOS system. Siri, Alexa, and Bixby, all are virtual assistants, the first step in integrating social robots with the world. But people are still uncomfortable with the idea of talking on your phone. Although it’s a very useful tool, it’s just a machine, and that’s where the future lies. Once you start dismissing the idea that the AI is a machine and start to think of it as a person, or a pet. That’s where social robots should be, not in your home, but in your heart too.

Virtual Assistants in your Home

Google Home, Alexa, you know them, and in 2014, you could have them as a separate piece of tech, not just on your smartphone, but in your home. A step up to be sure, but we’re not at the best yet. Still, people think of these assistants as robots, not humans or families. Although this made it more comfortable to talk to, they’re still a cylinder of metal, nowhere near the reactiveness or personality of a human, or pet. And that’s what’s keeping these high-budget robots back from truly reaching the potential they have, A personality, and feeling like a living, breathing friend. What’s different between your Alexa to the one across the street? The one across the world? Nothing, absolutely nothing. And that’s what’s keeping it at bay. There is no uniqueness, no personality, no nothing. If Alexa is a cold, unknowing assistant, then you wont care if it leaves your home, but then the best of the best is a warm friend, one you wont replace carelessly. One you can talk to knowing it’ll talk back.

Social Robots

Over the last decade, we having been moving towards a companion, rather than a machine.

Huggable — A social robot in the form of a teddy bear, for better child care.

Studies found that children liked playing with the huggable more than a regular teddy bear. Providing a friend over an imaginary one would greatly increase happiness, in a study conducted by MIT.


Lets take a look at Jibo, a social robot designed for the home, he’ll recognize you and your family, and know when you’re petting him. Hes a virtual assistant, and unlike the others by apple and amazon, Jibo asked you about your day, and started conversations on its own. Jibo was designed not just to be a hunk of metal, but a true, essential part of your home, to be family.


Jibo is now out of business due to bankruptcy. Running through 73 million, and layoffs, but eventually was sold in 2018 to a New York investment management firm.

Fundamentally, Jibo should’ve succeeded. It was a new, unique, and well crafted machine, more importantly, it acted more like family than any of the well funded assistants that the big tech firms were making.

Why Jibo failed

For starters, he cost a whopping 900$, and when 2014 rolled around, you could get a smart speaker at a fraction of the price. Jibo had over-promised and underdelivered, an issue that many overlooked, but still added on to the evergrowing list of problems. As well as the fact that Alexa and Google were already household names by the time it had shipped out. All of these were factors in the failure, but most importantly, Jibo was a first. The first social robot, and even though it failed, it led to more social robots on the market.

Jibo was the Columbus of the world of social robots, and even though he might’ve failed, someone else will come along, build upon the wreckage, and create the first one to truly succeed. Although the original Jibo failed, a new iteration can show us all that social robots can, and will become part of the market.