He’ll wait for you forever—No, I mean it!eerkmans on Flickr
These adorable robot dogs, collectively called “Aibo” (an acronym meaning “partner” or “pal” in Japanese) have been melting Japanese hearts ever since they loped on the scene, mechanical tongues wagging. In the land of the cute, I had no doubt at all they would be popular—but I confess I didn’t know just how much so! Let’s take a peek into the lives of these little guys and see what all the woofing’s about, shall we?
It’s not what it looks like, folks—He’s just rechargingsekido on Flickr
Of course, despite how many of their owners no doubt feel, these canines aren’t really alive—when they need recharging, they head straight for the, um, recharger! It looks like a cross between an ordinary cellphone cradle and a Borg energy node, but of course that’s just me (especially the last part). Well, I guess that saves the good master the price of dog food, not to mention conserving space in what is often very cramped quarters. Rest up, buddy. You’re gonna need it!
Is he fetching or throwing here?RocketScientistJan on Flickr
When these guys are sufficiently charged, it’s really kind of amazing just how doglike many of them can be; Apparently this one can catch a ball! Personally I’d rather play fetch with my Golden Retriever back home, but I see where they’re going with this anyway.
I wish I could get my real dog to obey like that!googlisti on Flickr
I understand that some of the Aibo models even respond to voice commands, like “O-te!” (“Paw/hand,” in other words, “Shake!”) When the time comes to face our robot overlords in the not-too-distant future, I certainly hope that somebody remembers to program a “shake” function just so that we can start off on friendly terms! 😉
Oh, coooome ooooon!!ktsugita on Flickr
Of course, those not content with regular-doggy moves like ball-fetching and shaking may want to consider more advanced Aibo models that can do things like punch, kick, and possibly even free the human race from The Matrix using Kung-fu. OK, I really don’t know about that last one, but I have to ask: Aren’t we going just a tad overboard here?
This is cute. Nuff said.Rene Mayorga on Flickr
Overboard or not, in a society where keeping a “real” pet is often neither a fiscal nor spatial possibility, Aibo is kind of a cool alternative, don’t you think? The kids above certainly seem to agree.
In my world, that would be a Star Trek posterColin McMillen on Flickr
As far as what I’ve seen in the news, though, Aibo dogs don’t just appeal to children—there are whole competitions devoted to showing them and their abilities off. Would calling them “dog shows” be a bit of a stretch? Probably, but such events are no doubt pretty exciting for owners and robot-enthusiasts. Having been to my fair share of Star Trek conventions (OK, personal geek alert ;-)), I can relate. There is a whole community of Aibo-nerds out there, folks.
I’m undecided on the kawaii factor here…Bitboy on Flickr
…but pretty sure here!Bitboy on Flickr
So why has Aibo been so popular, especially in Japan? Is it just because having one saves money and space? Or because of the cool things these robo-doggies can do? No, like our canine friends, I think that people of every stripe yearn for some unconditional companionship and love. These robots come in enough kawaii varieties that there is bound to be one for every personality. And once people become attached, I heard that they tend to take their Aibo pretty seriously, many going as far as to call it part of their family unit.
I dunno, something about this creeps me outroboticage® on Flickr
So with so much love for Aibo to go around, you would think they’d be equally loved by the company who created them. In fact, though, Sony has recently stopped offering repairs for Aibo products, prompting many owners to undertake repairs themselves—if that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is. Personally I’d rather be able to call my personal vet, but again, that’s just me.
Sniff, and ye shall findjeanbaptisteparis on Flickr
Here’s to hoping that Aibo continues to capture hearts both in Japan and around the world—if only to bring people around to the pleasure of owning a real pet. Woof, I say!