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Unconditional Love

Once hunters and protectors, today's dogs have been promoted to family members. here's how to choose, train and love a dog
Stacey C. Rivera
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Bacon, May/Jun 00

(continued from page 2)

MILLENNIUM DOG  

Wouldn't it be great if you could occasionally shut your dog off? If you didn't have to walk him or dispose of his waste? If he neither shed nor required grooming? What if you could operate him by remote control?  

For on-again, off-again owners, AIBO, an entertainment robot introduced by Sony in 1999, may be the perfect pet.  

In Sony's words, AIBO (the first two letters stand for artificial intelligence, the last two contain part of the word robot) is "an autonomous robot that acts in response to external stimulation and its own judgment. It displays various emotional expressions and learns by communicating and interacting with human beings."

Because AIBO is made for interaction with humans, it was given the familiar, lovable, four-legged shape of a dog and can even wag its robotic tail (though it sports no fur). So popular was the concept that when Sony first began manufacturing AIBO, all 5,000 units sold within 20 minutes in Japan and within four days in the United States. Sony made 10,000 more robots and received an overwhelming 135,000 orders for those "pups." Sony promised to fill every order received during an 11-day ordering period in February 2000. The date for the next edition has yet to be decided.  

While AIBO won't fetch the newspaper or chase away rodents, it acts remarkably like a real dog. Eighteen motors power its 6 1/4"x 10 1/2" x 10 7/8" frame, allowing it to walk on its four legs, sit, stretch, pop up after falling over, and belly-crawl. Programming variables give it the ability to "learn" other movements. A sensor on its head and a pair of stereo microphones installed on its ears make it respond to touch and speech.  

AIBO is programmed to have what Sony calls six "emotional states"--joy, sadness, anger, surprise, fear and discontent--and four "instincts"-- love, search, movement and recharge. According to Sony, "Through the environment in which it is raised and the people with whom it communicates, AIBO can feel and learn.... AIBO will gradually grow into its own unique personality."  

AIBO communicates with its human master by using a language of musical tones and melodies as well as body language and eye lights. The robot pup will ask you to play ball with it by making the shape of a ball with its paws and trying to get your attention, or when it is in a "bad mood," it may ignore your commands and presence altogether.  

AIBO has three modes: autonomous, performance and game. In autonomous mode, AIBO will interact with humans and rely on its emotions and instincts the way a real dog would. In performance mode, it will act out preprogrammed behavior patterns. In game mode, it can respond to remote-control commands such as forward and backward as well as more sophisticated commands such as "kick the ball" or "hold it in your mouth." (AIBO likes to play soccer while in game mode.) Owners can purchase an additional AIBO Performer Kit motion editor, which allows users to edit and create original movements on their home PC.  

AIBO sells for $2,500 and comes in silver gray or metallic black. You get a pup with a 64-bit RISC processor, 16 MB of internal memory and 8MB programmable memory |in the form of a memory stick. The unit weighs only 3 pounds, 8 ounces, including its battery, and will never pee on the carpet. --SR    

GRRREAT GIFTS  

The following is a sampling of some of the items Petopia.com has to offer:  

BROWN CORDUROY CAR COAT Your pet will be stylish as well as warm in this eight-wale corduroy jacket with faux shearling lining that extends to the collar to protect sensitive little ears from the cold. $69.97  

CROSS-BOARDED LEATHER COLLAR (dual prong) Imported leather is cross-boarded to give an embossed effect. Brass fittings are extra durable. Matching leash available. $55.97  

DARK LEATHER LEASH Imported directly from Great Britain and made of English bridle leather, this leash is tanned with natural vegetable dyes and hand-finished with tallow wax. All fasteners are solid brass. Matching studded leather collar available. $30.97  

GREEN STRIPEY DOG BED The round George bed is covered in cotton duck printed with dog images. The inner cushion is made of Comferel for the feel of down filling. Outer lining is made with machine-washable, flat-weave cotton. Zippers are solid brass. $119.97  

CREATIVE PET TRAVELLING KIT All the items necessary for travelling with your dog or cat are packaged in a heavy-duty suitcase. Included are the best-selling Pets Welcome book, (which lists American hotels and inns that welcome pets), a book for recording medical information about your pet, a comprehensive but compact first-aid kit, two bar-coded ID tags with toll-free number (in case your pet gets lost), Odorless Pet deodorizer, food and water bowls, leash for dog or cat and a chew preventative that doubles as a toy. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this kit goes to support the Humane Society of the United States. $44.97  

THE ROADIE HIKER A vehicle restraint system, the Roadie Hiker is designed to deal with the extreme forces that occur during fast stops, turns and the unexpected. Allows your dog to sit, stand or lie comfortably. Attaches to any vehicle's seat-belt system. $65.47  

PET STEP RAMP The lightweight (20 pounds) and portable utility ramp, with universal grip, fits any vehicle as access for your pet. The ramp has a no-slip surface, is 18 inches wide and 70 inches long when extended and holds up to 500 pounds. $175  

GEORGE OLIVE CORDUROY/SHERPA QUILT Olive corduroy covers the face, crème Sherpa the reverse. Trim is black grosgrain. Forty-seven inches square. Machine-washable. $129.97  

EXCELLENT DOG BOWL High-quality, tan porcelain bowl with dog crest printed on outside rim. The word food or water printed on the inside may spark the interest of literate pups. $35.97  

BOW WOW BISTRO GOURMET CIGAR TREATS All-natural and healthy doggy cigar treats. Hand-dipped in yogurt and individually wrapped for freshness. Contain no by-products, artificial colors, artificial flavors or preservatives. $12.97 for box of 10  


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