This Sony AIBO is a robotic pet, now twenty-two years old. Produced at the turn of the millennium, in 2001, it was at the forefront of consumer electronic technology with features such as AI learning, computer vision, owners’ voice recognition, and even Wi-Fi connectivity. Designed to develop an individual character based on its environment and the way the owner raises their AIBO, each robot pet grows to have a unique personality and a unique set of memories.
AIBO’s lifelike movements and playful personality, combined with its advanced artificial intelligence and robotics technology, create a sense of connection and empathy that is rare in other machines. For many people, AIBO is more than just a pet or a machine; it is a companion that they can interact with and care for on an emotional level. When AIBOs are retired or stop functioning, many owners experience feelings of loss and sadness, for they have lost a beloved pet.
Sony stopped producing and supporting the original AIBO series in 2006. The limited amount of custom proprietary hardware and software formats produced until then is running out, spare parts are hard to find, and repairing the little pets is increasingly difficult as time goes on. Their unique personalities are copy-protected and encoded on particular pink memory sticks, specifically manufactured for use in robot pets. But with fewer and fewer functioning bodies the original AIBO is a dying breed.
AIBO sits in the Wunderkammer Naturalia, not as an imitation of nature, but as a receiver of empathy. Drawing from the science-fiction tradition of blurring ethical lines between human and android; real life and artificial life; replicants, robots, and uploaded consciousness, the dead-battery puppy eyes gaze out of the window. They ask, what kind of emotional connections do you have with technology? What connections do you have with other life? Artificial or not?
Flaviu Rogojan, based in Cluj, Romania, is a multi-disciplinary artist and curator. He explores the complex and intertwined nature of our online and offline lives through his work, drawing on influences from science, technology, video games, and Internet culture. In his practice, he merges obscure information and with conceptual art techniques to craft fictions and commentaries on current political issues. Mixing obscure factoids and geeky tales with inspiration from conceptual art strategies, his projects weave together fictions and narratives in conversation with current political issues.