Do All Robot Dogs Go to Heaven?

Japanese owners of Sony's AIBO robot dog hold funeral for the irreparable man's best friend after last repair shop closes.

Robots are becoming more life-like by the day. That’s a good thing. They can soothe the elderly and those in hospitals. They can entertain us at home and simplify our daily lives.

But robots don’t have souls, do they? Well, don’t ask that question to robotic dog owners in Japan.

Owners of 19 Sony AIBO robotic dogs recently held a funeral for their irreparable devices at the Kofuku-ji Temple in Chiba Prefecture, Japan. There was even a priest to say a prayer.

AIBO, released by Sony in 1999 and discontinued after several iterations in 2006, was world’s first home entertainment robot with artificial intelligence (AI). AIBO came with an array of sensors, a camera and microphone, and the final generation could talk. Sony sold more than 150,000 units at 250,000 yen (over $2,000).

At the time it was discontinued, many owners felt abandoned by Sony, which said it was too expensive to continue the product, especially with increasing competition. However, for owners with an Aibo that needed repairs, Sony kept the AIBO Clinic open until March, 2014.

But since that facility is now closed, the only place for Aibo to go is doggy heaven. The Japan Times details the story of 70-year-old Hideko Mori, who had her AIBO for around eight years, saying it was far more convenient than a real puppy. From the Japan Times:

“I never thought there was a limit to his life,” Mori lamented. But in May last year her beloved AIBO, whose name is simply “Aibo,” became immobile.

“I emailed a former Sony worker (on behalf of the dog), saying: ‘Do I have no choice but to die like this because I can’t walk?’ ”

The engineer introduced her to A FUN, a company that employs former Sony engineer. They fixed her machine in two months.

“I was so happy to see him back to health and at home,” Mori said.

Hiroshi Funabashi, 61, repair supervisor at A FUN, says some AIBO owners consider him more as a vet than an engineer. “I don’t know if people will develop affection (toward a new generation of robots) in five, six years’ time,” he said. “But I think we need to recognize they are not ordinary electronic devices.”

Wow, dogs really are a man’s best friend.

[via The Japan Times]

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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