Sony launches ‘foster care’ program for its aging Aibo robot dogs

Sony is launching a new sustainability program to ensure that even robot dogs are for life, and not just for Christmas. Five years after releasing the ERS-1000 Aibo — a reboot of its popular line of “autonomous entertainment” robot dogs from the late 90’s — Sony Japan is now launching an “Aibo foster parent program” to help ERS-1000 owners who have cancelled their Aibo Cloud Plan to donate the gadget to a worthy cause.

According to a machine translation of the Japanese press announcement, Sony will test and repair ERS-1000 units donated to the program before providing them to medical facilities, nursing homes, and other organizations that could benefit from emotional support robots like Aibo. Sony says it plans to charge Aibo “foster parents” an undisclosed fee for the service and notes that some donations may be used to help maintain and repair other Aibo units, depending on their condition.

Aibo wasn’t exclusively marketed as an emotional support device, but it’s easy to see why it can be used as such. The ERS-1000 responds to voice and touch (with various sensors for petting) and even features a nose-camera to help it recognize family members.

For people who can’t interact with a real dog, Aibo is at least a delightful emulation. Japan is also keen on emotional support robots in general (remember SoftBank’s Pepper and the Paro therapy seal?) so this feels like a good way to retire pre-loved Aibo units while reducing potential e-waste.



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