As they say, hardware is hard. Matt Revis — a veteran of the speech recognition wars at Nuance, and now VP of Product Management at social robotics startup Jibo — is not someone to shy away from a tough challenge.
Getting various software keyboards and versions of Dragon shipped by OEMs on hundreds of millions of handsets (smart and some not so smart) takes a willingness to grind, and Matt has that in spades. Good thing too, because he’s jumped into an exploding segment — intelligent home devices — with relentless, well-funded competitors who have platforms and data that may provide quite a moat.
Jibo is taking a different approach than, say, Echo or Google Home. They believe a slightly anthropomorphic little robot, tuned to interact and genuinely connect with different members of the family, is a differentiated play versus static appliances with disembodied personas (Alexa, Google Assistant, etc.). Jibo is all about being relatable, and funny, and someone you’re invested in as they “grow”.
Much of this strategy is based on research done by Cynthia Breazeal, the charismatic robotics star who pioneered this work at MIT’s Media Lab before its spinout into Jibo. Both Matt and Steve Chambers (Nuance’s dynamic #2 for years) have signed up to help Cynthia bring the little robot to market.
It won’t be easy. The tech (think Alexa strapped to an Echo that moves in place but also has facial recognition and a display) has a lot of surface area where the table stakes are moving very quickly. And once they’ve figured all of that out, then they need to build and sell it.
But Matt (and Steve) believed in speech-based personal assistants years before Siri, and if anybody can do it they can. In this episode, Matt and I discuss many of their challenges, their unique approach, and how they doing. It’s “the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the most fun — both by a lot”, and you’ll hear the authentic voice of the entrepreneur. Have a listen to the podcast, but also watch the Jibo Program Update below, which gives you a sense of the V1.0 product, but also of how the business is managing the expectations of a community eager to get its hands on the guy.
Here’s a snippet from the full podcast: