MrMobile's Sony Aibo review shows that social robots can still be fun

Maybe it’s just my tendency to buy, trade, and sell gadgets whenever I get tired of the last ones, but I’ve never been one to form sentimental or emotional bonds with much of my tech. Aside from a few childhood electronics like my original Hey You, Pikachu! edition Nintendo 64 or the teal Game Boy Color that still sits decoratively on my mantle, I’ve always seen most of my technology as tools, first and foremost.

I suspect that’s why I’ve never been moved by social companion robots like Jibo and the Anki Vector; every time I watch one of MrMobile’s videos mourning the loss of yet another robot gone before its time thanks to shuttered servers and dying startups, I’m more moved by Michael’s narrative style than the gadget itself. But with Sony’s Aibo, I feel … different.

Aibo is the first companion robot I’ve seen that, well, still works. Sony shut down its Aibo servers back in 2006, blaming poor sales, but since then we’ve gotten a new Aibo with a rounder, more bubbly and friendly design. Aibo is designed to learn and develop like a real dog, including the curiously destructive puppy phase. I have a weakness for dogs, so it’s no surprise that this tugs at my heart strings a bit.

robopuppy.gif

Just like Bender’s short-lived dog Robo-Puppy in Futurama (which is pretty clearly based on earlier generations of this robot), Aibo can sense when it’s being mistreated thanks to a number of pressure sensors along its body, and uses the same sensors to detect pets and praise. It also goes to “bed” (aka its charging station), plays with toys, barks at random … by all means, it’s a lot like a real dog, albeit much less furry and cuddly.

Unfortunately, it’s also expensive like a real dog. Aibo runs a hefty $2900, which is a lot more than I care to spend on something like this. But for the well-off dog lover whose apartment complex doesn’t allow canine friends (that’s a real demographic … right?), Aibo is at the very least an interesting demonstration of artificial intelligence.

ROBO-PUPPY COMMENCING TWO-HOUR YIPPING SESSION