The Japanese word aibo, which means “pal,” is also an acronym of sorts for Artificial Intelligence Robot, an electronic pet released by Sony in 1999. This robot has the ability to react to its environment and learn: it is trainable, responds to touch, and is programmed to simulate the behavior of a living animal (sit, stay, come) and perform certain tasks, such as appointment reminders and e-mail notification.
Gallery label from Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000, July 29–November 5, 2012.
In 1999 Sony introduced Aibo, an “autonomous robot that acts in response to external stimulation and its own judgment … capable of interacting and coexisting with people as a new form of robotic entertainment.” Aibo stands slightly over ten inches tall, weighs about four and a half pounds, has a camera in its snout, a pair of stereo microphones in its ears, and a small speaker in its mouth. It has a walking pace of about 6.5 yards per minute, a touch sensor on top of its head, and eyes that change color and flash. Its brain is a 100 MHz, 64–bit processor with a 16 MB memory. The first-edition Aibo, in MoMA’s collection, actually lifts its leg to urinate, a feature that was later omitted to render the “pet” gender neutral and appealing to dog and cat lovers alike.
Offered to consumers as an “intelligent and trainable robot companion,” Aibo represents MoMA’s first foray into Japanese innovations intended to modify lifestyles. This field has long been of interest because of the potential effect its products may have on the world, but in the past it has been lacking in aesthetic criteria.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 182.