The Inanimate and the Animate are not separated in this world
June 20, 2015 6:02 PM   Subscribe

The family dog is going to die. From 1999 through 2006 Sony produced Aibo, a robotic dog which while not a true artificial intelligence was artfully crafted to inspire feelings of love and affection in its human owners. Sony stopped producing Aibo in 2006 (previously) but kept up a repair service until last year. Now that parts are getting scarce and Sony isn't fixing them any more, Aibo owners are dealing with new feelings for their robotic pals -- grief and loss.
posted by Bringer Tom (91 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Clearly someone needs to grab Sony firmly and state You diss my dog you fluff my hog.
posted by delfin at 6:11 PM on June 20, 2015 [18 favorites]


Should I be upset at the animal shelter for giving me a dog that is not immortal?
posted by straight at 6:15 PM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Get a dog.
posted by shockingbluamp at 6:18 PM on June 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's also close to the point where the FurReal Friends Butterscotch Pony will end up in Silicon Critter Heaven (or in certain instances, Silicon Critter Hell).
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:19 PM on June 20, 2015


Well I think part of the sales pitch (remember Aibo cost around USD$2000) was that unlike a real dog Aibo doesn't do any of those messy biological things like crapping on the carpet, marking the fire hydrants, or barfing. Or dying.

It just struck me as a remarkably cruel thing to create something like Aibo which is aimed like a laser guided missile at the hearts of its owners and then leave those owners twisting in the wind when things don't look good enough on the profit/loss sheet.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:20 PM on June 20, 2015 [33 favorites]


Damn. So somebody buys a robot dog thinking they'll never have to grieve it the way they'd grieve for the death of a flesh-and-blood pet, and the damn robot dog only ends up living about as long as a live dog would.

It surprises me that Sony wouldn't keep some sort of service going, to repair these dogs. People are willing to pay for it, and the PR value of stories with headlines like ROBOT DOG STILL WAGGING ITS TAIL AFTER 25 YEARS is a hell of a lot better than headlines like WITH NO OPTIONS FOR REPAIR, OWNERS SADLY WATCH ROBOT DOGS DIE.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:27 PM on June 20, 2015 [65 favorites]


Too bad that Phil Dick didn't live long enough to see this.
posted by octothorpe at 6:37 PM on June 20, 2015 [36 favorites]


octothorpe, that thing in the novel just about broke my heart....I won't spoil it for anyone who only saw "Blade Runner"
posted by thelonius at 6:39 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't seriously believe that there's a single part of these robots that can't be fixed by a sufficiently motivated person. There will be third-party repairs.
posted by phooky at 6:45 PM on June 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


There will be third-party repairs.

Re-Retrievers.
K-9.2
DogNOTGone

... We Can Fetch It For You Wholesale?
posted by hal9k at 6:49 PM on June 20, 2015 [29 favorites]


phooky, there are third party repairers already; this is mentioned in the NYT video. But Aibo is a remarkably complicated machine for a consumer device, stuffed with motors and sensors and specialty injection-molded parts. The third party repairers are having to cannibalize dead Aibos to keep the living going. One day there won't be any more of the Aibo-specific parts for the repairers to use.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:50 PM on June 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I find this rather uncomfortable. Aibos are pretty simple really; there's no suggestion whatever that they have any feelings or awareness. Yet people form an emotional bond as if they were dogs? What does that tell us about the relationships these people would have with real dogs? Does it imply that many apparently sincere relationships with pet dogs are actually very superficial, with the dog's own awareness and experience pretty much irrelevant?

And if so, what does that imply in turn about people's relationships with other human beings?
posted by Segundus at 6:53 PM on June 20, 2015 [22 favorites]


It surprises me that Sony wouldn't keep some sort of service going, to repair these dogs.

I am absolutely not surprised at all. The moment a service is not a current direct source of profit to a big corporation, its days are numbered, if not now, then the next time executives are shuffled and someone looks to make a name for himself as a cost-cutter.
posted by JHarris at 6:55 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


RePet: 3d printed parts for man's best mechanofriend.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:04 PM on June 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


Actually, I work in industry and it is almost heroic that they kept the repair service going for nearly 10 years after the product was discontinued. Machines that are actually critical to manufacturing operations are regularly EOL'd quicker than that leaving factories to scramble for replacement technology. But service technicians and PHB's aren't conditioned to love their chem analyzers and PLC's.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:07 PM on June 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


Does it imply that many apparently sincere relationships with pet dogs are actually very superficial, with the dog's own awareness and experience pretty much irrelevant?

I think it implies more about the humans than the dogs. We don't really know the awareness and experience of anything other than ourselves - what we do is assume they are aware and having experiences.

I'd suggest that a relationship with a robot dog is different than what a human would have with a real dog. The interactions would be deeper and, at times, more contentious. The dog would misbehave or do unexpected things leading to a more thoughtful and fuller relationship - or in other words, a more complex and complete theory of its mind.
posted by elwoodwiles at 7:14 PM on June 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Before they're all gone, someone needs to root a set of AIBOs and build the Rock-A-Fire AIBOsion.

And make them play GWAR.
posted by delfin at 7:17 PM on June 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


Did these people never seriously think about designed obsolescence? They really thought a complicated pile of plastic would function forever?
posted by nevercalm at 7:18 PM on June 20, 2015


The time is ripe for an aspiring bioengineer to perfect his new biocompatible interface that would allow replacing damaged or destroyed Aibo parts with the corresponding organs of real animals...

...but enough. I've said too much.
posted by Behemoth at 7:21 PM on June 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


I dunno. Doesn't seem that hard to take all the broken bits out of the Aibo's shell and replace it with a shelter cat. Kills two birds (and discomforts one cat) with one stone.

Less programmable, but more huggable.

...Someone with more science knowledge than me would have to sort out the poop part, but I imagine a hole in the back would work ok.
posted by Anoplura at 7:22 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I do wonder though, if consciousness is more of a gradient than an on off switch--- maybe complicated energetic processes at least could be having some sense of existence (ok I'll say maybe the sun has consciousness... ) ....

I guess what I mean is, at some point if we do create actual machine consciousness, might we realize components of partial consciousness are more present in functions of physical reality than it's in our comfort zone to think?

The assumptions in much of the english speaking world about what consciousness is are not univerally accepted.
"Many put this down to the fact that Japan has been founded on Shintoism and, as a result, the lack of spiritual distinction between animate and inanimate objects means people in Japan don’t have problems accepting robots as living entities."
posted by xarnop at 7:24 PM on June 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


Well if this is an especially Japanese problem because of Shintoism, that doesn't exactly let Sony off the hook considering it's a Japanese company.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:28 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Too bad that Phil Dick didn't live long enough to see this.

Ted Chiang, however, has.
posted by mikurski at 7:30 PM on June 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


Isn't there a scene in the manga Pluto about fixing an old pet robot dog? That was a hell of a series.
posted by gwint at 7:37 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

posted by anastasiav at 7:49 PM on June 20, 2015 [51 favorites]


I live with a roommate, two cats, and a Roomba, so between them I feel like I should be able to imagine what it would be like to own an Aibo, but I sure can't.

In terms of part scarcity, it certainly does make sense to use bits from busted Aibos if they're available, but we're certainly at the point where 3d printing is a viable alternative. And at the scale we're talking about, that probably makes more sense than anyone, including Sony, doing more injection molding.
posted by aubilenon at 7:52 PM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Planned obsolescence, amirite? Those greedy companies, making moving parts out of materials that are subject to physical laws of wear and usage instead of perfectly flexible frictionless unobtanium just have no heart
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:03 PM on June 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


Corporate Culture Killed My Dog
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:13 PM on June 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


The world's youngest AIBO is now ten years old.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 8:16 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


It just struck me as a remarkably cruel thing to create something like Aibo which is aimed like a laser guided missile at the hearts of its owners and then leave those owners twisting in the wind when things don't look good enough on the profit/loss sheet.

I imagine that in the years that Sony first made the Aibo, their management never imagined that their company would ever be in such severe financial straits, where pet projects like these (no pun intended) would be on a chopping block.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 8:21 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure with a 3d printer and a reasonable budget for a bench I could keep one of these things alive indefinitely.

What I'm saying is that I went into the wrong field and also that I need a loan.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:27 PM on June 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


Sony did the same thing with minidisc.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 8:27 PM on June 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think the motors are more likely to be the issue than the parts, sadly.
posted by frumiousb at 8:29 PM on June 20, 2015


their management never imagined that their company would ever be in such severe financial straits

Yes, I actually think the basic idea for Aibo came from either the novel or movie Jurassic Park. Crichton planted the idea of engineered pets that would be super cool but need special non third-party pet food. Had Aibo taken off it would have been a remarkably direct handle to manipulate the consumers who owned and loved them.

But Aibo was just too damn expensive, and it didn't take off. Yes a real dog can cost $2K but most actually don't, because dogs tend to create more dogs with an efficiency no factory can ever replicate.
posted by Bringer Tom at 8:37 PM on June 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Next time on Black Mirror.
posted by bleep at 8:39 PM on June 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


.
posted by town of cats at 8:58 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm... I'm so sad. The entire household is wailing now. Oh my god what if the AIBOs don't outlive their humans

WHAT IF THE SWEET OLD COUPLE HAVE TO WATCH EACH OF THEIR SEVEN AIBOS DIE

ONE BY ONE, SLOWLY BECOMING CORPSES WHICH WILL NEVER DECAY

what hath humanity wrought
posted by sciatrix at 9:02 PM on June 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


As someone who, as a little kid, cried when she accidentally made her Petz run away, and who, decades later, cried for weeks over a virtual world shutting down, I get this, and think the people who are saying shit like "didn't you think about obsolescence" are kind of being jerks about the whole thing, because love often looks like a bad decision when you consider the possibility of later grief, but we do it anyway, because it makes us human. No matter if we're loving robot dogs, virtual dogs, real dogs, real people, fictional people, virtual people, cars, places, etc. "You should've considered that gazebo you loved to sit in would probably get torn down someday. It's too lucrative a property to stay in use like that forever." "You should've considered that breed of dog only lives for a decade or so." etc.
posted by NoraReed at 9:08 PM on June 20, 2015 [113 favorites]


Seems like Sony could just open-source the parts list and parts drawings. A niche community of "makers" and scroungers might take over for no money. Maybe volunteer engineers could substitute with off-the-shelf parts, even if it made it kind of frankenstien's monster-like in appearance. Duct tape not included.
posted by ctmf at 9:14 PM on June 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


love often looks like a bad decision

Nice one, Nora. I think you coined this. It's just about perfect.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:27 PM on June 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


Bringer Tom: "Yes a real dog can cost $2K but most actually don't, because dogs tend to create more dogs with an efficiency no factory can ever replicate."

What with shots, licences, food, end of life care, waste disposal, eyc. I'd bet the average pet dog costs way more than $2k over it's life time.
posted by Mitheral at 9:30 PM on June 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


But Aibo was just too damn expensive, and it didn't take off. Yes a real dog can cost $2K but most actually don't, because dogs tend to create more dogs with an efficiency no factory can ever replicate.

After adding up visits to the vet, food, stays at the dog ranch, treats, pet license fees, etc., I expect that the cost of caring for my dog will more than surely add up to a figure well over $2k. And that ignores the upfront fee to the breeder. I wouldn't say money is no object, but I don't put every interaction with my pug on a spreadsheet, either. I get the feeling that other dog owners are probably on the same page.

I suspect what killed Aibo was Sony's horribly bad management, which really jumped off a cliff after the middle of the 1990s. Someone mentioned MiniDiscs and that's probably a good inflection point, one where the company as a whole wasn't really thinking straight, save perhaps for the Playstation 2 in the late 90s.

Aibo's cost could have been amortized in a manner that had made inkjet printers of the mid- to late-90s highly profitable. The business model was already there to make it self-sustaining, given the emotional connection between pets and owners. It would have been the very definition of rent seeking — even before the term became hackneyed.

Seems like Sony could just open-source the parts list and parts drawings. A niche community of "makers" and scroungers might take over for no money.

I don't think it's in their culture to open up the IP. It is interesting how many parallels there are with the MiniDisc. After Apple's iPod came out and owned the portable data storage and MP3 player market, a lot of the potential interest in the MiniDisc platform had evaporated. A lot of MD proponents (myself included) had sponsored an open source project around the format's ATRAC codec, but Sony had no interest. And they have killed off and stifled open source projects built around the Playstation 2 and 3.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:32 PM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


It just struck me as a remarkably cruel thing to create something like Aibo which is aimed like a laser guided missile at the hearts of its owners and then leave those owners twisting in the wind when things don't look good enough on the profit/loss sheet.

True...if Sony was a person. But its a multi-national, trillion (?!) dollar corporation. I put the blame on the "dog owners" for thinking Sony gave a shit about anything beyond their purchasing power.

Silly people, corporations are for dicks.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:33 PM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


What with shots, licences, food, end of life care, waste disposal, eyc. I'd bet the average pet dog costs way more than $2k over it's life time.

Yeah, I have a dog who I literally paid about $25 for at the local kill shelter. Mind, I also paid for her spay and vaccinations at the same time, so call that about $100, IIRC. Then there was $300 to the landlord I was living at for a pet deposit, plus $300 and $400 at two subsequent places for pet deposits, so there we're at $1100.

In the three years I've had her... let's see. Dog food is about $50/bag, a bag lasts about a month and a half for a 30-lb dog, so let's say $1200 in food, which brings us to $2300. Vet visits happen once a year, those usually cost about $200 for a basic heartworm check and a year's supply of flea/heartworm meds. That's been three years, so call that a total of $600, bringing us to $2900. I have a crate for her ($40), and she's had several beds ($20-30 apiece) over the years. Collars and leashes... minimum of $50 for one collar, lead, and tag, ignoring my assorted spares. So that brings us to about $3000 in three years.

That's ignoring the "optional" stuff, like toys (we have a slight stuffy problem in this house), training classes (canine agility ftw!), treats for the aforementioned training classes, extra collars/leashes/harnesses (again, I have a problem) and assorted weird things like the dremel I bought for her nails, her currycomb, and boarding her when I go out of town on vacation. I'd actually guess I have easily about $6000 minimum in that $25 dog, given the way I spend on her. So when you look at it like that.... yeah. Pets are expensive, but totally worth it.
posted by sciatrix at 9:41 PM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well if they're going to give it up for free I see no reason to continue subscribing to Japanese People Facing Existential Problems Monthly
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 10:12 PM on June 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Now I've got this image in my head of the back room of an Aibo repair shop, with hundreds of little robo-puppy corpses and various body parts strewn everywhere, just piles and piles of them. There's like, a bushel of eyeballs here, a bucket of floppy left ears over there, and space is clearly tight so like the guy is eating lunch and he looks for somewhere to put down the burger wrapper, and he has to make room by shoving a pile of tails out of the way or whatever. The walls are covered in veneer wood paneling that's been soaking up cigarette smoke for decades, and there's faded color posters showing anatomical drawings of like the dissection of a torso or something, like you'd see in a doctor's office but much more grim because it's a puppy. There's a glow in the corner from this old CRT monitor, with the white plastic having turned that brown/orange color that happens to old plastic, and it's connected to an ancient computer running Windows XP. Every few hours the guy fires up IE 6 and refreshes eBay, hunting for any Aibos that might go up for sale to add to his collection. That's the only use of the computer, he doesn't use it to write invoices. For that he's got a stack of carbon forms in one of those aluminum clipboards, and he writes up every order in longhand with a ballpoint pen. When you pick up your dog he spindles the receipt; that's his entire filing system. He used to also do VCR repairs, back when there was money in that, and there's a few shelves on the wall that still contain dust-covered VCRs that customers dropped off for repair and never bothered to pick up. But these days it's all Aibos. These desperate owners keep bringing them to him, and he continues taking their money. Sometimes they complain that the dogs are returned with dirty finger smudges all over them, but he just shrugs. Customer service was never his thing, but he's the only game in town and he knows they don't have a choice. He figures he's got enough parts stocked up to last another couple years, maybe, and then he'll sell the place to those guys who keep bothering him about turning the place into a cell phone store.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:18 PM on June 20, 2015 [38 favorites]


And thanks to anastasiav, I'm now reliving all the childhood trauma of the Velveteen Rabbit. boo!
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:11 PM on June 20, 2015


Seems like Sony could just open-source the parts list and parts drawings.

They certainly could. But they won't. They'll take that shit to the corporate grave. Because they are Sony, and that is what Sony does.

That said, I don't really think that the parts that are likely to wear out in an Aibo can't be replaced by a sufficiently motivated person, particularly given the state of 3-D printing technology, CNC machining, etc. If there are really that many people around who are attached to their Aibos, there's a good market for someone to take one, disassemble it, measure all the parts, and start offering replacements.

But they're awaiting a cold day in Hell if they think Sony is going to help them do it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:16 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dibs on naming an album "CORPSES WHICH WILL NEVER DECAY"
posted by saul wright at 11:46 PM on June 20, 2015


In time all things shall pass away.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:51 PM on June 20, 2015


There's like, a bushel of eyeballs here, a bucket of floppy left ears over there, and space is clearly tight so like the guy is eating lunch and he looks for somewhere to put down the burger wrapper, and he has to make room by shoving a pile of tails out of the way or whatever.

This is my vision too! Is the platinum blond Aibo played by Rutger Hauer?
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:12 AM on June 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I see a performance art piece: buy the art for $50M or the Aibo gets squished by this four inch thick slab of steel plate I've suspended above it. For the love of dog, people, save Aibo! Sign the petition! Outrage! Infamy! A moral crusade! PETA makes a statement! A lawsuit! Oh, the notoriety! The fame! The artistry! The kickstarter campaign!
posted by five fresh fish at 1:01 AM on June 21, 2015


Seems like Sony could just open-source the parts list and parts drawings.

Sony just doesn't do "open" in any way and almost never have.
posted by octothorpe at 1:20 AM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Should I be upset at the animal shelter for giving me a dog that is not immortal?"

If the dogs eventually gain sentience, should they be upset?
posted by markkraft at 2:01 AM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tut-tutting of the "oh just get a shelter dog" variety is probably off the mark. The set of people for whom an AIBO and a real dog fill the same niche is probably very small, if not empty. AIBO owners want a robot, not a pooch. You may as well recommend that bereft owners of dead poodle-shaped topiary head down to the Animal Rescue.

The second-to-last AIBO line (ERS-210 IIRC---anyway the predecessor to the ERS-7) was a neat, very modular design that allowed you to attach and detach head and legs from a central processor+battery "brick" without any tools. The electrical interface was a row of gold pins, and it looked... hackable. I wonder if people might just engineer electrically/mechanically compatible replacements.

The question of course is whether owners who have replaced everything except the brain believe they still have the same robot.

(Myself, I destroyed two ERS-210 heads implementing SLAM for the AIBO during an internship for Sony in Tokyo. I'm surprised any have lasted this long!)
posted by tss at 3:04 AM on June 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm a cat person, but still, fuck Sony anyway.
posted by talking leaf at 3:09 AM on June 21, 2015


Reading this it struck me that 9-16 years is a pretty good range of lifespans for flesh and blood dogs, so these owners are getting perhaps a more accurate replication of pet ownership than they anticipated. I say that not to be glib but because as a dog owner and a parent I recognize that having a beloved pet grow old and die is as integral a part of the experience as the excitement of seeing a puppy for the first time or teaching a dog its first trick. Sad, yes, but a part of life.
posted by TedW at 5:30 AM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


phooky, there are third party repairers already; this is mentioned in the NYT video. But Aibo is a remarkably complicated machine for a consumer device, stuffed with motors and sensors and specialty injection-molded parts. The third party repairers are having to cannibalize dead Aibos to keep the living going. One day there won't be any more of the Abio-specific parts for the repairers to use.

There can be only one.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:35 AM on June 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


As the dinosaurs, so Aibo. If history is any guide its descendants will be tiny feral robotic parrots living in Telegraph Hill and Greenwood Cemetery.
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:50 AM on June 21, 2015


I cried when my HP Laserjet passed away. One day Huey was printing out cat memes on glossy paper and the next day he was forever silent, his LEDs dark. But long before that - actually the moment I bought him - his firmware was obsolete and software shoddy, the result of HP's godawful software development practices. But Huey didn't seem to mind the occasional reboots and jams so I didn't think much of it. But now I wonder: did he suffer in standby, did he had nightmares in his sleep?

.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:15 AM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


> K-9.2

K-9.1
posted by Bonzai at 6:16 AM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


$2000 for a dog is a lot if you pay it all up front, sure. Add a couple of greedy gobbly incidents in the first year or two and emergency trips to the veterinary hospital and merely two thousand dollars begin to look really attractive. Ask me how I know...

This thread largely disappointed me until NoraReed posted. Sometimes I can come to Metafilter and find thoughtful and nuanced discussion. Other times it's a bunch of superficial snark (I do this too sometimes, I should stop - it adds little).

I expected more of a conversation about love and loss and isn't it interesting the strange variety of things we can grow attached to? I was choked up when I sold my little red pickup truck a few years ago. Why? Because it had been in my family since 1990. I remember the day my dad brought it home, so proud from the dealership. I remember when I bought it from him and the two of us drove cross-country so I could bring it home. It was older than the entirety of the next generation of my family (17 nieces and nephews). Hell, I am a little teary right now thinking about it and it was only a machine.
Loss is loss and we humans form emotional bonds so easily.
posted by djeo at 6:19 AM on June 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


> but still, fuck Sony anyway.

I am not sure if in this instance Sony is better or worse than companies that string you along on your affection to their products, allowing you to maintain that emotional attachment and group identity for as long as you continue consuming it, withholding it if you can't, refusing (actually, spending significant amounts of money trying to prevent) acknowledgement that their product was harming you.
posted by at by at 6:40 AM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


This thread needs a link to Nattie's amazing comment from a previous thread: "Robots, man. They're nothing but heartbreak."
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:47 AM on June 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


The best advice I ever received after I became interested in vintage cars and motorbikes: "Never fall in love with sheet metal. It can't love you back."
posted by rock swoon has no past at 6:54 AM on June 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Aibos seem like the ultimate bait for crouton-petters and anyone who's snarking at those who mourn the loss of a plastic companion: you try and just put Shelby in a box, ok?!

On preview: Metroid Baby got there before me.
posted by none of these will bring disaster at 7:03 AM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hey everyone, just a quick reminder: 3D printers are super cool, but even ones at a price point three orders of magnitude above current consumer models don't come anywhere close to the materials specialization or engineering tolerances involved in a product like the one in question.

If they did, lego would have been out of business five years ago.
posted by 7segment at 7:05 AM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


One day Huey was printing out cat memes on glossy paper and the next day he was forever silent, his LEDs dark

Huey?
posted by TedW at 7:08 AM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm a crouton petter through and through and through, and I saw this video a couple days ago. Mr. Machine saw me about to click on it, and he was like NO WHY ARE YOU CLICKING ON THAT YOU KNOW HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT THROWING AWAY PLASTIC WRAPPING JESUS WHAT ARE YOU THINKING

I told him that I do what I want, and three minutes later, I'm about a breath from full-on bawling at the sweet little old lady smiling at her Aibo and shaking its hand and watching it dance and then having the little Aibo ask her, in a sweet little kid voice, how she was doing today? The bit at the end about Aibos on vacation wrecked me.

* If I'm in the right emotional state, tears and regret and poor plastic wrap :( doomed to slowly rot all ALONE in the DARK in the landfill for thousands and thousands of years because they don't recycle your kind of plastic around here and and and :( :( :( :(
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:10 AM on June 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Which is to say, that because I love pain, I found this Wall Street Journal article about the Aibo situation:
One of the participants at the Kawasaki meetings, Sumie Maekawa, says she and her husband, who have no children, see their Aibo as a daughter. Ms. Maekawa, who is 72, talks to the Aibo every day, travels with it and makes clothing for it. She and her husband agreed that whichever of the two lives longer should be cremated alongside the dog, which also is named Ai, in expectation of a family reunion in the afterlife.

“I can’t imagine how quiet our living room would have been if Ai-chan wasn’t here,” Ms. Maekawa said, using an honorific suffix applied to girls’ names. “It will be sad when the day finally comes when Ai-chan is unable to stand up.”
(Also interesting: how many of the Aibo owners/enthusiasts appear to be older than I'd expect for
being really into a robot dog.)
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:12 AM on June 21, 2015 [9 favorites]




The Dog Of The Long Now.
posted by Devonian at 8:05 AM on June 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sign up for my new business which will virtualise your Aibo, uploading it to live in a cyber world where it can happily play all its old tricks and interact with you via your chosen device, and where you can join it one happy day when the Singularity arrives.
The sweet part of the deal is that I don't really even have upload anything!
posted by Segundus at 8:12 AM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


an honorific suffix applied to girls’ names

Well, no, the "chan" suffix is usually applied to girls' names, but it can be applied to anything cute and adorable, regardless of gender, or used as a term of endearment.

And I just realized that "ai," in Japanese, means "love," and "bo" probably comes from "robo." The Aibo is literally a robot designed to be loved.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:14 AM on June 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


With 3D printing so widely available, it seems like Sony could really get some great PR by making all the Aibo programming and specs open source, leaving people able to repair and modify on their own.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:38 AM on June 21, 2015


The Aibo is literally a robot designed to be loved.
Obligatory Simpsons video snippet link
posted by blueberry at 11:02 AM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh I so can get this.

A couple of years ago my sister got several boxes of our 3 girls worth of dolls and stuffed animals out of her attic. I had seen them in years but gawd the pangs from the ones where condition just couldn't warrant anything but the trash. (Totally okay with donating and rehoming). We sorted and picked about 4 or 5 of the most special to keep. Her husband had to do the trash part while we all looked the other way and denied.

Still, at 40, I could not throw out this one plastic baby doll, that really is a mess. I could not get past the thought of her lying in a dump and covered in an ever growing pile of garbagy darkness. It's now sitting a box, which you would think isn't a whole lot different but emotionally it's not.

Humans can be really weird.
posted by Jalliah at 11:46 AM on June 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


There's like, a bushel of eyeballs here, a bucket of floppy left ears over there, and space is clearly tight so like the guy is eating lunch and he looks for somewhere to put down the burger wrapper, and he has to make room by shoving a pile of tails out of the way or whatever.

This is my vision too! Is the platinum blond Aibo played by Rutger Hauer?


"Chew, if only you could see what I've seen with your, er... bushel of eyeballs. Now: questions."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:01 PM on June 21, 2015




Yeah, but there isn't a new one. The apartment is just dark now with no lamp because Sony stopped making them in 2006.
posted by Bringer Tom at 1:24 PM on June 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


take the little robot brain out and install it in a custom Boston Dynamics chassis
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:05 PM on June 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: Someone with more science knowledge than me would have to sort out the poop part,
posted by bracems at 3:02 PM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Instead of forcing people to rely on corporate, proprietary animals, this is an opportunity for makers. Custom-built, fully hackable robodogs made from off-the-shelf parts and 3D printed components! Different designs and models could be considered akin to "breeds!" Robo "vets" with an assortment of replacement parts and molded pieces could offer on-site repairs and even upgrades! You could even hav-- oops, match starting
posted by JHarris at 3:33 PM on June 21, 2015


Custom-built, fully hackable robodogs made from off-the-shelf parts and 3D printed components!

Have you watched any of the videos? I had never actually seen an Aibo in action before. The amount of articulation built into them is quite impressive. That is not a capability you toss together in your garage with your MakerBot. There is a reason these machines cost $2K even with manufacturing economies of scale.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:51 PM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


It sounds like someone took my joke comment seriously. BRING OUT THE PADDLE.
posted by JHarris at 8:16 PM on June 21, 2015


WOOF WOOF
I'M RAGS
WOOF WOOF
I'M RAGS
posted by ostranenie at 10:19 PM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


um

Rags is a cat
posted by NoraReed at 10:41 PM on June 21, 2015


Eh, should just do it the way we do it with other necessary obsolescences: virtualize 'em. Just like you've got that stupid virtualized Windows ME (or whatever) environment with regular snapshots standing up so that you can run the elevators (or whatever) someone could easily make a virtual Aibo world, and somehow import whatever rudimentary personalized algorithms so that these robot dogs can live forever. Eternally pining for the people who loved them, all those millennia ago. So actually, since that is sad too we can virtualize the Aibo owners as well.

In fact I think I read something on Facebook about how quantum physics proves that all of our universe is in fact a virtualized holographic Aibo simulation.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:11 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


And the name of that world is A Farm Upstate
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:45 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


But when a child already lives upstate, where does her dog go to stay?
posted by nobody at 5:24 PM on June 22, 2015


Canada?
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:06 PM on June 22, 2015


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