Could humanlike behavior make smart devices more engaging? MIT researchers think so

By Brian Heater

Jibo may have breathed its last robotic breaths back in 2019, but researchers at MIT believe the social robot may have been onto something. Sure, the world wasn’t ready for a pricey social robot a few years back, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some positives to take away from the experience — namely, the value of imbuing smart home products with more humanlike attributes.

A team at MIT’s media lab recently published a paper looking into the value of attaching simple human gestures to smart home interfaces. It’s worth mentioning up front here that former Jibo CEO Cynthia Breazeal, who currently works at Media Lab, was one of four co-authors of the study, which pitted the bygone home robot against a Google Nest and Amazon Echo.

According to the study, users are more likely to engage with both the device — and each other — more when it exhibits some form of social cues. That can mean something as simple as the face/screen of the device rotating to meet the speaker’s gaze.

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