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William Gibson and dogs

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Image from article “Sony’s Aibo has been put down”

We are it. We are already the Borg, but we seem to need myth to bring us to that knowledge. 

Steam Engine Time. Somewhere in the late Seventies. In garages, in California. Putting the electronic brain on the table. Doing an end run around Dr. Asimov’s ethical robots. The arms and legs, should you require them, are mere peripherals. To any informed contemporary child, a robot is simply a computer being carried around by its peripherals. Actually I think this accounts for the generally poor sales of several recent generations of commercial humanoid robots; they’re all more than a little embarrassing, at some level. Sony’s Aibo, a robot dog, does slightly better in the market. Who today wouldn’t simply prefer to have a faster and more powerful computer, faster internet access? That’s where the action is. That augmentation. Of the user. Of us.

Actually the return of those humanoid robots has disappointed me. I’d thought that everyone had gotten it: that you don’t need to go anthropocentric in order to get work done. That in fact you get less work done, far less bang for your buck, if you do. My idea of an efficient robot today would be an American Predator drone with Hellfire missiles, or one of the fly-sized equivalents allegedly on Pentagon CAD-CAM screens if not already in the field. Though actually those are both cyborgs, or borg-aspects, as they are capable both of autonomous actions and actions via telepresent control.

William Gibson’s Blog 2003


Maybe it’s just a twist of light tonight, but the city’s so bright, this whole town’s in focus.
He’d always call me baby strange.
He’d hold my head and pray for rain.
Oh Johnny, let me be your dog star girl.
Let me curl inside.
The fire’s just right.
The fire’s just right in focus.
But, then he said, like, anything goes, baby.
But I don’t know.
I just don’t know.
Do you?
And how’d I ever get to this dead man’s town where the rain, where the rain falls down, where the rain falls down forever?
And then he said, so much for you, so much for me, but I don’t see.
No, I don’t see.
Do you?
And how’d I ever get to this dead man’s town where the rain, where the rain falls down, where the rain falls down forever?

Lyrics to Dog Star Girl by William Gibson

Back home in Chelsea, Deborah Harry’s neighbourhood in New York, there are people she sees every day who don’t know who she is – who she was. “Most of the time, we know each other’s dogs’ names but not our own,” she says. You mean it’s a kind of dog thing? “Absolutely,” says the owner of Chi-Chen, a pug, and Ki-Suki, a Japanese spaniel. “Absolutely.”

From Buzzle


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July 4, 2008 at 5:22 am

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Latte and Macaron

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June 17, 2008 at 12:02 pm

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AIBO, the end

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Sony has shut down production of its robotics unit, leaving Aibo and Qrio out in the cold. The mechanical dog and humanoid will be consigned to the scrap heap (or an eBay seller near you).Aibo, the robotic dog that emerged from the Sony kennels to great fanfare in 1999, was just costing the company too much money, a Sony spokesman said. The total number of dogs sold is slightly more than 150,000, which is a paltry total compared to what company officials had predicated and hoped for. The US$2,000 price tag undoubtedly played a large part in the lackluster sales, which have left the poor little pooch in the market forces doghouse. Still, collectors and aficionados will miss the regular updates of little Aibo, whose most incarnation had the power to speak 1,000 words, react to an owner’s commands and motions, and even play music.

One thing that Aibo can do, of course, is take pictures. That functionality has spawned a cottage industry of online photo-swapping, with Aibo-taken pictures as the prime commodity. These and other fans of Aibo might have a bone to pick with Sony over the shuttering of the robotic facilities. Sony, however, wants to keep an eye on the bottom line.

“Our core businesses are electronics, games and entertainment, but the focus is going to be on profitability and strategic growth,” said Sony spokeswoman Kirstie Pfeifer. “In light of that, we’ve decided to cancel the Aibo line.”

This does not mean that you can’t get one of these little dogs if you really want one. Sony has said that it will continue to provide Aibo to anyone who wants to buy one. Once existing inventory is gone, however, it’s gone for good.

Qrio, a humanoid friend to Aibo, will be discontinued as well, with the same existing-inventory arrangements.


Sony To Aibo: Play Dead. Mobile Magazine. Dave White. January, 2006.

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June 8, 2008 at 11:56 pm

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AIBO, the beginning

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Aibo and Nipper. Photo by pt at Flickr.

SONY unleashed a robotic dog on Tuesday. It has a metallic coat, flashing green eyes, wobbly knees and a propensity to wag its tail when you pat its head. Its name is Aibo, which means companion in Japanese. And for $2,500, it could be yours.Aibo (pronounced eye-BO) is Sony’s answer to the 20th-century quest for a relatively intelligent robot that gets around on its own. (Its name is also a quasi-acronym that stands for artificial intelligence robot.) Over the years some companies have actually tried to sell what they call robots, like the remote-controlled Omnibot sold by the Tomy toy manufacturer in the late 1980’s. But none have succeeded in producing a usable robot or capturing the consumer’s attention.

Sony is betting that Aibo will break that cycle, and a few other companies are taking the same gamble this year. Eureka has been showcasing a new robot vacuum cleaner at housewares shows. A few companies are promising to unveil robotic lawn mowers within months. And a wheeled robot called Cye is starting to generate interest among robot enthusiasts after appearing last fall in a Web-based catalog called the Mondo-tronics Robot Store.

Aibo is a different breed from the personal assistants and maid droids that most science fiction fans envision. It is designed primarily to be entertaining, and cute.

”It almost takes on a personality where you think it’s real,” said Tod Freeman, a spokesman for Sony, at a demonstration a few weeks ago.

Weighing three and a half pounds, Aibo is a little smaller than a Yorkshire terrier. It kneels on a recharging cradle when it is resting. When it is set on a flat surface, its tail perks up. Then the robo-pup raises its head, pulls itself upright, stretches and yawns widely.

New York Times.  May 13, 1999

Audrey Hepburn and her Yorkshire Terrier, Famous


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June 8, 2008 at 11:51 pm

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