There’s no denying the appeal of a robot dog. You get the companionship, the fun of playtime, and the pre-programmed loyalty without all the mess or expenses of feeding and maintenance. Unless you really want to feed your Aibo, in which case Sony will happily sell you make-believe virtual meals and treats that unlock fun “tricks” your $US2,900 ($4,255) soulless splurge can perform.
Editor’s note: Aibo is not yet available in Australia. Still, everyone loves a good doggo story, even the robotic ones.
For those not keeping score at home, back in late 2017, Sony revived its robotic dog, Aibo, with a new version featuring impressive hardware upgrades but questionable features and functionality. It also came back from the dead with a $US2,900 ($4,255) price tag plus the cost of a cloud subscription service (the first three years are included) if you wanted to unlock the more advanced features of the robo-pup you just paid a small fortune for.
Since Aibo’s release, Sony has been pushing out software updates that add new features, like turning the robot into a home security sentry. The latest update, version 2.50, which is now available, expands Aibo’s customizability with a new web-based API and dev program allowing the robot to be programmed to perform custom tasks and actions, even for amateur coders who have access to the easier Aibo Visual Programming interface. The new feature that will appeal to most owners, however, is Aibo Food, which allows the robot to be virtually fed using augmented reality through the Aibo smartphone app.
Meals can be purchased using coins, which are awarded to users through random actions like repeatedly using the Aibo app, or during special events. But once users runs out of coins, which is bound to quickly happen as they try out the new Aibo Food feature, they can either wait for more Sony handouts or purchase additional coins for a fee.
Sony points out that Aibo’s performance and features aren’t dependent on whether the dog is regularly fed—it is, after all, just a robot. So hopefully the company won’t change its mind down the line, making your pup act sluggish and distracted when you’re not forking out for pretend food.
On top of buying meals and treats using coins, the new Aibo Food feature also works with a new food bowl accessory (which isn’t available for sale just yet), which the app presumably recognises and tracks for the full augmented reality experience. But users can also skip the bowl and feed their Aibos by hand like some kind of techno-future heathen.
Of course, other complications arrive once you start feeding an animal, and the new software update also allows users to finally potty train their Aibos using a new mapping feature so the robot doesn’t pretend-shit all over your house. This appears to be a free feature, until Sony realises it can sell owners virtual poop bags.