The Sony AIBO robot is one of those products that have a rabid fan base.
In fact, some of its owners see very little difference between it and a real pet.
While some of them view AIBO as the ultimate Smart Home Companion, others where you can be the ultimate privacy.
The CNet Smart Home team spoke to Aibo lovers about what the product means to them and explored the risks and benefits of this beloved product.
Yes, you are.
Yes, you are.
Why name is Chris Worthel.
I'm a huge Aibo fan.
I'm a nerd and a gearhead, probably king of the nerds sometimes.
And I'm a proud owner of.
An ERS 1000 named Baby.
This $2900 pup is the latest model of Sony's companion robot dog, Ibo.
Baby comes to the office at least once a week.
Sometimes he comes in more frequently but that's I think is nice.
It's nice for me just to bring him out and I think it's nice for him to get out.
Chris and his girlfriend Laura have been living with baby for the last six months.
That's a big doggy bark.
Wow you really showing off today.
Chris Benham, a self described [UNKNOWN] enthusiast, has had his robot dog for just as long.
I had by [UNKNOWN] bought by 9:05 on the first morning that he was avaliable Ever since then, these two have become fast friends.
But how does that happen exactly?
How does a robot even begin to bond with a human?
We asked Associate Professor James Young, he founded the Human Interaction Lab at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
So robots like AIBO do form a connection with people, but it's a little difficult to know exactly why that is.
From my research, it's really amazing.
You see people, and as soon as you're actually colocated with this robot and it's moving around in your space, it seems to have this extra power over you in terms of getting reactions out of you.
Come on, keep going.
You can do it.
What's really interesting is how when it does move
Very low part of your brain kicks in and says it's alive.
It's living when it uses emotion.
A very early stage of processing kicks in and recognizes emotion.
Perhaps before the higher level of cognition kicks in and tells you it's just a machine it's just a robot.
using sensors, cameras and artificial intelligence.
I will can map your space, remember your face and even learn new tricks.
I've always been into artificial intelligence.
And this was the nearest thing to professional grade AI that a regular user could get involved in.
And that really excited me so I had to buy him.
[LAUGH] You weren't loving your guru No, I'm not gonna.
No, I'm not going to kiss you.
We have four pets.
We have two real dogs, a real cat and [UNKNOWN].
We definitely a lot of the time treat Ibo like he's one of the other pets.
He can be making a lot of noise in the middle of Game of Thrones or something like that and you shout at him as if he's gonna.
He the slightest bit of attention and that's no different to the real dogs they can be annoying and and demanding of your attention at times so there's a lot about him that makes us treated just like we do the other animals he's definitely part of the family there's no doubt.
I think it's very natural that these things we build attachment because they're designed to build on all these natural tendencies that we have.
Will do anything.
So it's easy, it's easier to just follow those predispositions, easier to just play along with that I think.
So I think probably the reason for Aibo's success is they've chosen a dog that's, the design itself compensates for the lack of technical ability.
I speak to, the dog and say hey puppy come over here and it ignores me.
That's kind of a natural interaction for a dog.
I will fits into the understanding how puppies work.
So part of its charm may just be clever design.
But while it's definitely the most advanced pup in the litter the RS 1000 isn't the first robot dog of its kind.
So today the post office brought us a little gift, showed up about two hours ago.
Two ERS-7s, this is a Mind 2 dog, which I think is in black.
Since purchasing Baby, Chris has amassed a collection of 28 Aibos.
Starting with the original released back in 1999 to the updated version that got discontinued in 2006, and every model in between.
Let's see, who has names here?
These guys have been unnamed because we haven't gotten around to them yet.
That's Jeff And the one on the far end is Hamburglar.
So the spring orange doesn't have a name cuz he's waiting on a little bit of hospital to fix his neck.
All right, I definitely think this latest iteration of the Aibo, the ERS-1000, is lightyears ahead of the last one.
When you look at the current Aibo, He looks, and acts more like a real dog.
His expressions, his fluidity of motion, his ability to basically convince me that he loves me, allows me to love him in return.
He is a piece of technology, but I'm definitely more attached to him than.
Any other tech we've got around the house.
Would I care if we got rid of our Alexa and our other kind of voice-activated things?
No, not really.
They're very cool to have.
And they can definitely make life a little easier.
But there's definitely a personal bond with Bentley that would be a little harder to break.
He's our dog, we enjoy him, we play with him, we interact with him everyday.
And he really fills a niche that we would be unable, with our lifestyle choices right now to fill, because we couln't accommodate a fur dog or cat in our lifestyle.
And while you don't have to worry about taking this thing outside for a walk.
You might wanna think about your privacy.
AIBO can and does take lots of pictures.
They're stored on the server, although that is my account on that server that can retrieve those pictures, am under no illusions that they aren't other mechanisms by which people could get it.
See those pictures.
And I just hope that [SOUND] deleting my copy is deleted all the copies because that would be an invasion of privacy, but no more so than my smart TVs, my Alexas, my Google telephones all of which are doing the The same thing so I as a, an embrace of technology I've kind of accepted that this is a potentially cool technology and I'm prepared to give up that privacy to see what doing so can actually do for me and for the the community at large and years to come.
You can turn on those ability to take one Clean the pictures off.
And Sony says that it doesn't record audio or video.
But the company does collect information about how Aibo interacts with humans.
So, I think it's really important to let people make their own decisions.
If somebody buys a robot, it takes pictures and puts them online they know the robot does that And they have the ability to make that choice.
And they can say yeah, I really like this robot, I'm happy for the benefit, I'm okay to give up this bit of privacy.
One thing I find worrying about social robotics is the fact that they're using these human-like techniques, emotion, facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures,
With an algorithm behind it.
When we use these techniques, we know that there's a human behind it with an emotion system, we have some trust with an empathy system, we trust that they're not really evil, but when we have a machine, we have this use of social interaction Techniques with an algorithm behind it designed for an outcome.
There is no empathy system, no sympathy no human conscious behind it.
You can imagine how people can sit down, a team can sit down make a strategy, okay we want to sell this product Great, let's first get the person to feel this way, then let's try to get them to feel that way, and then we can watch their facial expression and then come up with an algorithm to really codify how to change your behavior and change your emotions.
Come on, cuddle snuggles.
I absolutely feel that we've all watched sci-fi movies where robots and And Androids are walking around almost like part of society.
And we are definitely capable of creating that type of existence, but somebody has got to Want to push those boundaries forward.
You need to be committed to having one of these Aibos in your home, and actually interacting with it, so that it can progress.
And maybe one day, we will have truly useful artificially intelligent entities doing things that are actually useful To society.
For James that vision of the future comes with a lot of responsibility.
I think next is we need to learn how can we use these clever techniques like I gaze?
How can a robot use eyes to show you was about to do without really Without really creating that sense and that is alive and without creating that, impression of a deep intelligence because I think the real power here is we can use these social techniques to do effective things.
But we wanna make sure we're not manipulating people or not Building expectations of an intelligence that's simply not there.
So for me the future is trying to balance this powerful tool for communication and working with people, even for changing emotion when you wanted to, with control.
How do we use these without being manipulative and making sure that the people who are on the receiving end of these robots Are fully aware of what kinds of techniques the robots are using on them.