30 January 2006

Sony Kills Pets

Update: Changed links to my pages after small modifications and addition of photos:

I was sad to see the news that Sony has canned it's Aibo robotic dog.

One of the highlights of a trip to Japan a couple of years ago was seeing a demonstration of the QRIO biped robots in the Sony Store. By coincidence, I put a rather poor movie I made from my digital camera (Sony) on my iWeb test personal website just a couple of weeks ago, showing these in action (I've now added a couple of photos too on the photos page). While it may not be obvious, these robots are incredibly clever. I believe they are the first 2 legged robots which are able to stand on one leg, and also to get up themselves after falling over. I have no idea how much effort was required to get them to perform the synchronised act in the movie, or how close they were to enabling domestic use, but the demonstration had everyone smiling. I haven't seen anywhere whether the Aibo announcement also includes halting work on QRIO or other derivatives, but I assume it's not good news in this regard.

Sony has received a fair amount of negative publicity recently - the DRM rootkit debacle, Sony's Connect software failing, etc. As a company, they have gone down significantly in my estimation because of these anti-consumer/user actions. But everytime I see this movie or see news of Aibo, I was always more forgiving.

I understand Sony may have valid business reasons for the decision. But I can't help feeling that there have been considerable benefits to the overall Sony brand from Aibo and QRIO. Showing you have a fun side (as well as great R&D) makes you stand out next to your competitors like Panasonic, Samsung etc. It is these companies that will welcome Sony's decision most. For those that enjoyed Aibo and/or QRIO, we have just a little less to smile about and a little less admiration for Sony.

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