Announced as a prototype in 1998 and made available to the general public in May of 1999, Sony’s AIBO line of “entertainment robots” were called “the most sophisticated product ever offered in the consumer robot marketplace,” at their induction into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2006. While many people associate the AIBO name with the beagle-like ERS-7 model (pictured here), not all models were so obviously canine in their inspiration. The ERS-210 found its design inspiration from lion cubs, while the ERS-220 shed any pretense of biomimicry with its futuristic design.
I always wanted an ERS-7, but with a $2000+ price tag, I knew the idea of owning one would never amount to more than a pipe dream. I still love the idea of robot pets and spend quite a bit of time thinking about how to strike the perfect balance between functionality, aesthetics, and price. Robots don’t require food, they don’t make messes and should actually not only clean up after themselves, but their owners, too! But most importantly to me, they should never really have to die.