I had this fun idea to make a video called “Real dog vs. robot dog,” where Henri (my Maltese Shih Tzu) and Aibo would go head to head performing a dozen tricks like high-five, bark and play dead. Aibo arrived, however, when I was simultaneously battling a cold and dog-sitting for my best friend. Because two days with Aibo didn’t allow for much time to teach him tricks, I decided to give him free rein to explore the apartment while I followed him around with my iPhone in a Theraflu haze.
As expected, Aibo was incredibly cute, does a bunch of tricks and can learn new ones with practice and patience. Brian goes in-depth here.
The (real) dogs were curious at first, and would sniff Aibo (his butt rather), but shortly afterwards would ignore him, despite his numerous attempts to engage with them. If this were elementary school, Aibo would be the smelly new kid no one wanted to play with.
Like a real dog
We were told each Aibo was programmed to have a unique personality. The Aibo we received was a defiant little one that would obey orders half the time. He was also needy and would constantly try to get my attention. Unlike a real dog though, I could tell him to go to his charging station or turn him off.
Although his OLED eyes were meant to be expressive and help mimic a puppy’s endearing personality, they can be creepy at times, especially when he does the side-eye or when his pupils dilate.
Room for improvement
Aibo’s impressive for a robot companion dog, but with a $2,899 price tag, I’d like to suggest the following features for the next iteration:
- Fur. Aibo isn’t very cuddly, and it’s a bit more difficult to get emotionally attached to a cold, shiny object rather than, say, a teddy bear.
- Better movement. He would get stuck between rooms or at the edge of the rug and hardwood floors. He’s also quite slow. Watching him performing certain tricks and getting settled into his docking station was like waiting for a .jpg to load on dial-up.
- The ability to read your expressions, so he knows when you’re sad and can act accordingly.
- A fart feature, so you can blame your farts on Aibo.
Sony plans to roll out a security package in Japan that uses Aibo’s on-board sensors to keep your home safe. I’m not quite sure what that entails, but if Aibo’s eyeballs could be used as cameras to stream video footage on your smartphone while you’re not home, and alert you when someone’s there, that alone would justify the price tag.
This U.S. version, however, is available now.