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In Robot Attitude: How Robots and Artificial Intelligence Will Make Our Lives Better, you will read about many different types of robots. One which may become of increasing interest to older consumers is robo-pup. If you haven’t signed up yet to get an alert when the new book is published, please click here.

Sony has been making robotic pets for more than 20 years.  The latest version of Sony’s Aibo, pronounced eye bo, became available in the United States at the beginning of 2019. Aibo could be perceived as a home automation device when you consider all of its sensors and cameras. In reality, it is nothing at all like a smart home device. The giveaway is the wagging tail and the way Aibo trots around your home. Aibo’s goal is not home security or automating your lights. In Japanese, Aibo means “pal” or “partner”, and its sole mission is companionship. A two year-old child will likely find Aibo a delightful addition to the family. Aibo may cause chronically ill seniors to think less about their aches, pains, and loneliness. Reports from reviewers of the robo-pup say a real dog or cat may not find Aibo at all interesting.

A companion Apple or Android mobile app enables you to set Aibo’s gender to male or female. This affects the pitch of Aibo’s voice and how he or she walks. You can also set the color of Aibo’s eyes, teach it new tricks, and even take photos with the camera in its nose. He or she can understand more than 50 voice commands. All of this and more is made possible by a plethora of technology components inside of the 12 inches tall, 12 inches long, 7 inches wide, 5 pound robot including a super-fast computer chip, OLED displays (eyes), sound speaker, four microphones, two cameras, a dozen sensors, and Wi-Fi. 

In terms of movement, Aibo has 22 degrees of freedom (DOF). The human body has 244. For example, our hands have 27 DOF. Each of our four fingers can move in four different ways. The thumb has five DOF, and the wrist has six. Aibo stands out versus any toy or consumer robot with its 22 DOF. Its head can move along three axes, one for the mouth, neck, and waist. Each leg (front and back paws) has three axes. Each ear has one DOF and the tail has two. 

The purpose of all the technology is to make Aibo seem like a real puppy. Reviewers all say that mission was accomplished. A review in TechCrunch said,

A long press of the power button on the collar wakes him up. He stirs slowly, from a near fetal position, his paws extending outward with a stretch. He acknowledges his limbs with a yawn and slowly stands, shaking himself out as though he’d just run through the sprinklers in the yard.

Aibo uses artificial intelligence and deep learning technology to remember 100 friends and family. He remembers what makes different people happy based on their reactions. As Aibo learns its environment and develops relationships, its personality becomes unique. As an owner, Aibo becomes uniquely your Aibo. A reviewer at c|net spent a week with Aibo at home. She said,

Aibo loves praise with a nice rub on the head, chin and back — or give him some positive verbal feedback. (“Good boy!”) Teach him tricks and watch him respond to voice commands. Cameras and sensors on his front side help the dog sense nearby people, as well as find his signature pink toy ball, bone and charging station. A camera near his bum points to the ceiling to map the layout of your home, so over time he learns how to get around.

Aibo connects to the Sony cloud which uses artificial intelligence to help Aibo become more and more real. The nice thing is you don’t have to take him for a walk several times a day. The flip side is the cost – Aibo sells for $2,900.