Ten years since their last release (presumably someone was in the dog house), Sony has decided to bring out a new version of their iconic Aibo robot dog.
The updated model – simply named Aibo – is making the most of a decade’s worth of technological advances by integrating artificial intelligence, machine learning and mobile software. Aibo can supposedly do more than ever before.
But how does a robot compare to the real thing? Could a machine ever really replace man’s best friend?
1. Keeping You Company
All dog owners will agree that one of the best parts about having a canine is the company, and in many cases forming a life-long friendship with your furry friend.
Just like a real dog, Aibo is billed as being able to form “an emotional bond” with members of the household and provide you with “love, affection, and the joy of nurturing and raising a companion”.
Now don’t get us wrong, that all sounds perfect, but if Aibo is anything like Alexa or Siri, yes they’ll listen to what you’re saying and give you some feedback, but it’s hardly the friendship of the century. Plus you always get the feeling they secretly loathe your entire being. Dogs could never hate anyone.
2. Making A Mess
One of the hardest parts about bringing a live animal into your family home is that different species don’t always have the same standards of cleanliness.
From chewing the sofas to using the garden as their personal bathroom, real dogs can be a messy to say the least. Then of course there is the hair they leave on every soft furnishing they happen to come into contact with.
On the other hand, robot dog does not need to toilet or shed hair. So not only is it great for those with pet allergies, but could be a winner for anyone who wants to ditch the poo bags.
3. Allowing You To Leave The House
Having a dog at home can be a joy, but it isn’t half a commitment. For any dog owner who has ever tried to have an impromptu weekend away or stay at work late without being crippled by the guilt of leaving Fido home alone, robot dog would undeniably solve those problems.
And if you’re still feeling racked by guilt, there is an app that can be used to control Aibo remotely, as well as look at the catalogue of photographs taken by the dog, so you can even see what it is up to (although presumably, not a lot).
4. Feeling Like A Member Of The Family
Granted, we might sound completely deluded when we compare the quality of our relationship with our dog to those with blood-relative humans. But it’s true.
Always happy to see you when you get home, content to listen, and liberal with the hungover hugs, dogs aren’t just pets, they are part of the family.
But the problem with robot dog trying to emulate this familial closeness is that in order to get close, it is essentially watching your every move, learning more about your behaviour and what makes you happy. If you fancy a robot spying on your family, then this is the perfect option for you.
5. Going For Walks
Even in the depths of winter going for a long dog walk is a thing of joy.
Although robot dog has an intricately designed body – ultra-compact actuators along 22 axes to help it move naturally – let’s be honest, taking it out in the local park in all weathers probably isn’t going to do much for the wiring and electrics.
Not to mention it only has a two hour battery life, before it needs to recharge for three hours, so you’ll be left to carry it home.
6. Saving On Vet’s Bills
If we had known how much vets were charging to look after people’s pets, we might have made different career choices. And for many pet owners, having to fork out huge sums of money for their dog is more than a minor inconvenience.
But would a robot dog be a cheaper alternative?
Well not exactly. Currently only on sale in Japan (release date is 11 January) at approximately $1700 (USD) it isn’t exactly a small investment. Not to mention you then need to buy an additional annual subscription (or you can buy a three-year-pass) to give you the WIFI and LTE connectivity, and cloud backup. Pricey.