Sony's Aibo robotic dogs were announced with much fanfare in 2003; now, however, aged robot dogs are slowly failing and Sony has just announced that they are halting support for this product line.
(Sony Aibo ERS 7 promotional video)
Yahui and Tatsuo Matsui met because of their dogs, Ai and Doggy. So, at their wedding reception, the couple dressed up their pets as a traditional Japanese bride and groom and seated them at the head of the table.
That was in 2004, when Ai and Doggy were still pups. Now they are 15 and 13 years old. Ai’s stride has slowed and Doggy’s neck is so stiff he can barely move his head. “Whenever Doggy finds Ai, he tries to greet her but she rarely responds,” Mr. Matsui said. “Mostly she ignores him.”
Sony sold an estimated 150,000 Aibos, at prices ranging from less than $600 to more than $2,000, and an unknown number are still up and running. But the company, which has been cutting costs in its troubled consumer electronics arm, shut down maintenance services for Aibos last March—for lack of spare parts, the company says. Now owners have to look elsewhere for help.
An hour later, in the company truck, he had picked up the first malfunctioning animal for the day. An electric cat: it lay in the plastic dust-proof carrying cage in the rear of the truck and panted erratically. You'd almost think it was real, Isidore observed as he headed back to the Van Ness Pet Hospital - that carefully misnamed little enterprise which barely existed in the tough, competitive world of false-animal repair...
He describes the travails of the owners of robotic animals, in this case the false animal is a sheep:
"...they break down and then everyone in the building knows. I've had it at the repair shop six times, mostly little malfunctions, but if anyone saw them - for instance one time the voice tape broke or anyhow got fouled and it wouldn't stop baaing - they'd recognize it as a mechanical breakdown."