Sony’s Robot Dogs Are Helping Japanese People Find Companionship

The dogs, known as Aibos, are companion robots made by Sony — robots that don’t necessarily do much apart from providing company and comfort. From a report: Every Aibo — Japanese for “companion” — is manufactured identically, besides a choice between silver and white or a brown, black, and white version. They all have rounded snouts that include a camera for facial recognition capability, large, oval eyes to reveal their expressions, and a body that can turn on 22 different axis points to give them a range of motion. The owner decides the gender when they set them up, which determines the pitch of its bark and how it moves. They’re cute. They know when you’re smiling. And through machine learning and recognizing people with its camera, Aibos also shift their personality over time based on their interactions with people they spend time with. Soon, they become much more than a store-bought toy.

Still in the “off” position in the cafe, the Aibos’ paws remained outstretched and their heads turned to one side. But one by one, as their owners kneeled down to turn them on from a switch at the scruff of their neck, each came to life. The screen of their doll-like eyes blinked open, they lifted their heads, stretched out their plastic limbs, and leaned back on their hind legs before standing on all fours. Almost like real dogs, they shook their heads as if to ward off sleep after a nap, wagged their tails, and barked.

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