Sony’s robotic dog, named Aibo, was launched way back in 1999 and finally discontinued in 2006, but many of the 150,000 Aibo live on inside owner’s homes. Except they’re getting old, which means some are coming to the end of their lives. The pictures you see above are from an Aibo funeral, held in the Chiba prefecture in Japan.
The little robotic dogs are accompanied by engineers from A FUN, a company specializing in Aibo repairs, but these Aibo are obviously beyond even expert help. Each one has a tag with the owner’s name and the place from where they came written on it. The head priest of the temple prays for the 19 Aibo dogs, and says it’s to aid the robotic souls in passing from the bodies.
You’d have to be very hard hearted not to be slightly saddened by the sight of 19 “dead” Aibo dogs. Don’t forget, these now-vintage robots could develop little personalities, and were capable of interacting with their owners thanks to a built-in camera and microphone.
They were early examples of artificially intelligent robots, made for entertainment and enjoyment. Emotional attachment to them was inevitable for some owners. In an interview, 70-year old Aibo owner Mori Hideko talked about enjoying having the dog around the house, having conversations with it, and how she was saddened when he broke.
However, after two months work, the many former Sony engineers at A FUN had fixed Hideko’s Aibo. “I was so happy to see him back to health and at home,” she said. According to Funabashi Hiroshi, a supervisor at A FUN, he’s seen more as a doctor than 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,” he said.
Artificially intelligent machines – from Siri to Pepper – each with their own personalities are slowly being introduced into our everyday lives. Mourning their “passing” is only logical, which means the Aibo funeral may be the shape of things to come.