The word AIBO comes from Artificial Intelligence roBOt and is also the Japanese word for ‘Companion’ or ‘Friend’. They were first introduced in 1999 and were the first consumer robot of its kind to be offered to the public. The AIBO is able to develop from a newborn puppy to an adult with a personality shaped by the interaction with their owners and surroundings. However, they were never intended to be mass produced, having started life in 1993 as a research project.
The original AIBO model presented to the public was ready by May 1999. An initial 5,000 ERS-110 models were put on sale in Japan and the US. The response was overwhelming and 3,000 robots were sold in under 20 minutes in Japan along with another 2,000 over four days in the US.
The European launch took place on 26 October 1999 and at this event, SONY announced a new special edition model (ERS-111) for November 1999 targeting Europe, Japan and the US. This time, 10,000 models were to be put on sale for a period of one week. Once again, all expectations were crushed. During that single week, SONY recorded 135,000 orders. The main reason behind offering such limited numbers was to keep a close contact with customers to favour feedback and help further develop the performance of AIBO.
The impressive success of the first generation AIBO encouraged SONY to launch the second generation in October 2000. With improved mobility, touch sensors and facial LEDs, the ERS-210 model boasted enhanced emotional expression in its interactions with its living environment. Features requested by previous AIBO owners including the Name Recording Function and Voice Recognition, were introduced to the new model bringing AIBO even closer to its owners.
The LATTE and MACARON models joined the Aibo family in September of 2001. This new pair are specifically designed to be sweet and adorable. These cuddly shaped companions incorporate the impressive technology found in other AIBO models.
In November 2001, the AIBO ERS-220 was launched. With a sleek and futuristic look (and nicknamed RoboDog by their owners!), this new model incorporated a multitude of highly advanced actions. Along with numerous lights and sensors, the ERS-220 model was the most sophisticated entertainment robot on the market.
Or at least it was until the third and final generation of Aibo was launched in November 2003. The ERS-7 was even more sophisticated than its predecessors. Three versions of the ERS-7 were released over the next two years before Sony announced on 26th January 2006 that they would be “stopping the production of the Aibo entertainment robots”.