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AIBO: The Little Dog that Couldn't

AIBO, or Artificial Intelligence roBOt, as the letters stand for, is not a brilliant acronym by any stretch of the imagination. It is essentially a robot dog, almost fully autonomous, but meant to hopefully replace man's best friend as the de-facto pet. It might just possibly have launched a few decades too early, to achieve that goal.

The first model was shipped in 2001, the last in 2006, as economic conditions forced Sony to abandon many unprofitable projects.

An AIBO feeling Playful

AIBO could walk on its four legs quite comfortably - unless it encountered stairs, then it tended to 'bounce' its way down in a most ungainly and non-recommended fashion. Like most Sony robots, walking was a monumental piece of engineering and programming, not an evolved gait like more successful approaches.

A single camera in the head was used as AIBO's main sensory input, machine vision and a fairly sophisticated for the time, neural network AI brain allowing it to make head and tail of its environment, recognising its owners, furniture, and walls around it. An embedded microphone with significant gain allowed it to recognise a handful of spoken commands uttered in the same room it was in, and over time they would listen to and interpret a greater library of commands based on feedback behaviour - they could be trained.

A modder's pack was developed by Sony, for people wishing to recode their AIBO robot to do more, altering the base code not being possible on such an advanced machine - well it was possible, but Sony sued anyone who tried, and the persistence of people doing so, led to the creation of their modding pack. This pack, is essentially the three tools; R-CODE, AIBO Remote Framework, and the OPEN-R SDK.

All three of them are free to download and use for non-commercial purposes. However, since they require a functional AIBO to use - and as stated, these are no-longer made, demand is limited to existing owners only. Still, Sony have pledged to continue supporting AIBO until 2013, so most of the models in existence are likely to survive for a handful more years at least.




OPEN-R SDK 1.1.5

AIBO Remote Framework

R-Code SDK Tutorial (PDF)

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