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A sad phenomenon takes place in Japan, where Sony’s Aibo robotic dog rides out 25 years as “Man’s Best Friend for the 21st Century.” These robots are “dying” now, and their owners feel as attached to them as they would be to any living pet.
In 1999, Sony introduced a robotic dog called Aibo to eager households in Japan. The device cost around $2000, which is pricey by most standards. To space-challenged Japanese citizens, who reside in tiny apartments that lack backyards, these robots were ideal housemates. Aibo was as realistic as one could hope for a loyal companion who lacked fur and genuine slobber. These robotic dogs were capable of interacting with their owners with the help of a microphone and camera. Aibo could obey commands, return hugs, and play with toys. Their owners grew extremely attached to this early form of artificial intelligence wrapped in a cute plastic exterior.
As Digital Trends reported in 2006, Sony stopped producing the Aibo robotic dog after seven years as part of company restructuring efforts. This move left the 150,000 existing Aibos without technical support in case of failing parts. Owners of the Aibo, who felt Sony left them without recourse to repair pets that felt like part of the family, weren’t pleased.
25 years after Aibo’s inception, these pets are beginning to die off. Repairs can only go so far when Aibo parts are no longer available. In an effort to save Aibo, several former Sony engineers joined forces at A FUN. One of them, Funabashi Hiroshi, admits that Aibo owners see him as a doctor, not a repairman: “For those who keep Aibo, they are nothing like home appliances. It’s obvious they think their robotic pet is a family member.” Owners genuinely enjoy Aibo around the house, and some insist that each Aibo possesses its own distinct personality.
As these robots reach the end of their “life,” emotionally attached Aibo owners are sending them into the afterlife in grand fashion. A group of men gathered at Japan’s Chiba prefecture to hold a mass funeral for 19 different Aiba dogs. The temple’s head priest prayed over the robotic pets “to aid the robotic souls in passing from the bodies.” Photos of the ceremony can be viewed here, and it’s a heartbreaking sight to witness.
Just for kicks, here’s the original video advertisement for Sony’s Aido.
Source: Digital Trends