If you’re spending $US1,730 ($2,402) on a robotic dog (plus $US800 ($1,111) on a three-year plan that unlocks all of its capabilities) it makes sense that you’d go out of your way to take care of it. But how far out of the way is too far out of the way? A new Aibo accessory from Japan’s leading maker of baby carriers might have just crossed the line.
Sony’s robotic Aibo dog first debuted 23 years ago and at the time it wasn’t just a remarkably capable robot companion, it was a robot companion that was actually available to the average consumer (who has thousands of dollars to spare) featuring life-like interactions facilitated through various sensors and eventually the ability to respond to voice commands, years before the voice-activated smart assistants we use now came to be.
Aibos were few and far between in the US but in Japan, they had a loyal following. Those lucky enough to own the robotic pup were so devoted to their companions that as Sony stopped supporting older models and replacement parts were no longer available for repairs, people held actual funerals for them. So it made a lot of sense for Sony to revive the Aibo in 2017 with upgraded actuators allowing the robot to move more like a real dog, OLED displays for expressive eyes, and a nose camera allowing the dog to recognise and react to familiar faces and facial expressions.
The new Aibo wasn’t the smartest dog we’ve ever spent time with, but it was undeniably adorable as far as robots go, and for a new generation of robo-dog devotees in Japan Sony has teamed up with a company called Lucky Industries, makers of popular baby accessories, to create a baby carrier specifically for the pretend pup.
The $US85 ($118) (9,790 yen) Aibo Sling is a one-size-fits-all solution letting Aibo owners carry their robo-pups around while keeping their hands free for other tasks like flipping people off who make fun of them for wearing a baby carrier for bots. As with a carrier for real infants, the Sling is completely adjustable so users can comfortably shoulder their 2 kg robot, and it’s designed to not block or interfere with Aibo’s most important sensors while the bot’s strapped in, so it can continue to create an AI-powered bond with its owner.
Surprisingly, but also not really surprisingly, the Aibo Sling is already sold out as it was only made available in a small initial run, and the Sony website seems to indicate there’s no definitive timeline for when more stock might be available.