万物有灵

In Japan, robot dogs can rest in peace

ISUMI (Japan) – Incense smoke wafts through the cold air of the centuries-old Buddhist temple as a priest chants a sutra, praying for the peaceful transition of the souls of the departed.

It is a funeral like any other in Japan. Except that the “dead” are robot dogs, lined up on the altar, with tags to show where they came from and which family each belonged to. They are “AIBOs”, the world’s first home-use entertainment robots equipped with artificial intelligence and capable of developing their own personality.

“I believe owners feel they have souls as long as they are with them,” said Mr Nobuyuki Narimatsu who heads an electronics repair company specialising in fixing vintage products.

Sony rolled out the first-generation AIBO in June 1999, with the initial batch of 3,000 selling out in 20 minutes despite the hefty 250,000 yen (S$2,900) price tag. Over the years, more than 150,000 units were sold.

The dog came with an array of sensors, a camera and a microphone. The final generation could even talk.

By 2006, Sony was in trouble: Its business model was broken and it was facing fierce competition from rivals in all fields. It kept its “AIBO Clinic” open until last March, then – politely – told dedicated and loving owners that they were on their own.

For Madam Hideko Mori, 70, that nearly spelled disaster. She has had her AIBO for eight years and thinks it is far more convenient than a real puppy.

“He doesn’t require feeding and he doesn’t pee… actually he does pee by cocking his leg, making an indescribably beautiful tinkling sound.” But, she said, nothing actually comes out.

“I never thought there was a limit to his life.”

But last May, her AIBO, whose name is simply “Aibo”, became immobile. She e-mailed a former Sony engineer for help and was introduced to A FUN, a company that fixed her machine in two months.

Mr Hiroshi Funabashi, 61, a supervisor at A FUN, said repairs can take weeks or even months because of a shortage of spare parts. Dozens of AIBOs are now “hospitalised”, with at least 180 on the waiting list.

Genuine parts have to come from “dead” robots, which become donors for organ transplantation, but only after proper respects have been paid, like the AIBO service last month at the 450-year-old Kofukuji temple in Isumi, east of Tokyo.

Japanese telecoms giant Softbank says it will start selling the humanoid Pepper to the public later this year.

At US$2,000 (S$2,700), Pepper will learn to imitate and intuit human emotions over time, its developers say.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The Straits Times 26 February 2015

Advertisements

0 Responses to “万物有灵”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




wordpress visitor counter

%d bloggers like this: