For many, the physical warmth and cuddliness of a dog has no substitute. Every pup has a unique personality that comes with that warmth. They are distinct. Irreplaceable, even.
Yet, for others, the desirable elements of a dog can be recreated, and have been, by robots.
Sony began producing their AIBO product line in 1999, and though they ceased making them in 2006 and no longer offer tech support services for AIBO, the product experienced a limited popularity in Japan. Enough that many AIBO owners must contend with the eventual decay of their AIBOs since Sony no longer performs repairs.
According to Hiroshi Funabashi, who works for a company which does fix old Sony AIBOs, “the word ‘repair’ doesn’t fit here.” Instead, he says, “for those who keep AIBOs, they are nothing like home appliances. It’s obvious they think their (robotic pet) is a family member.”
When 70 year old Hideko Mori was told her AIBO would no longer be “treated” by Sony after it closed its AIBO Clinic in 2014, she was devastated. For her, her AIBO is a genuine friend who provides welcome company. “He doesn’t require feeding and he doesn’t pee… actually he does pee by cocking his leg, making an indescribably beautiful tinkling sound.”
Fortunately, nothing actually comes out.
The artificial intelligence programed into each AIBO theoretically allows for the development of distinct personalities, like real dogs have. Some AIBO owners have even gone so far as to say these distinct personalities represent souls.
A traditional Japanese funeral has been performed for select models of the AIBO, presumably at the discretion of their owners, out of respect for the roles they played in the lives of the people who owned them.
Convinced? Will there be a robotic dog in your future? If not, we understand.