8 SERVO 03.2018
Bow-Wow Bot Returns
In 1999, Sony introduced the first consumer
model of Aibo (Artificial Intelligence Bot): the
legendary robotic pet that usually took canine form.
The beagle-like ERS-110 was released in limited
production, with only 3,000 available in Japan and
2,000 in the USA. All 5,000 units were sold within 20
minutes of being introduced on the digital dog
Over several years, the bow-wow bot became
wildly loved by its owners, who often developed
deep emotional attachments — even to the point of
preferring them to real family members. In 2006, Aibo was
honored with a slot in Carnegie Mellon’s Robot Hall of
Fame, which described it as “the most sophisticated
product ever offered in the consumer robot marketplace.”
Sadly, Aibo was never a profitable endeavor, so Sony
put him to sleep in 2006 at the early age of 49 (dog) years.
In 2014, the company announced that it was unplugging all
life support, including repairs and spare parts.
However, it appears that dogs have at least two lives,
as Sony recently announced Aibo’s resurrection as the ERS-
1000. Among the cited feature improvements are
“irresistible cuteness, rich expressiveness, and dynamic
range of movements,” “the ability to bond with its owners,”
and the ability to adapt to its environment, “growing into a
The new Aibo is a tad smaller than his progenitors,
measuring 180 x 293 x 305 mm ( 7 x 11. 5 x 12 in), and
weighs in at 2. 2 kg (about 5 lb). The initial list price is
198,000 Japanese yen, which comes to about $1,800. A
little pricey, but not all that bad as far as Japanese dogs go.
For example, you could easily pay $4,000 for an Akita,
not including shots and a lifetime supply of flea dip. For
details, visit aibo.sony.jp/en.
by Jeff and Jenn Eckert
Talonted Drone Hunters
The ubiquity of cheap drones has created a thorny and
growing dilemma: How can we stop hostile drones before
they deliver chaos to victims?
One imaginative approach is offered by a Dutch
company called Guard From Above
( guardfromabove.com), purveyors of the C-UAS Bird of
Prey defense. The company’s solution doesn’t involve any
kind of electronics or ballistic devices; rather, it relies on
trained raptors. Specifically, eagles.
Yes, the concept sounds a little exotic, but consider
that humans have used trained birds of prey for hunting for
thousands of years. Plus, raptors have a natural talent for
snatching things out of the air. According to the company,
“Our specialized team, with over 27 years’ experience in
training birds of prey, has been developing special training
programs to teach birds of prey to hunt for hostile drones.
We are selecting and training C-UAS birds of prey for
clients all around the world.”
One of the drawbacks is that military or police
organizations employing a C-UAS will need to have a
trained bird handler on staff, but Guard From Above offers
training in that area as well. “At the end of our training
program, your staff will know everything needed to handle
our trained birds,” notes the company. “From basics on
working with birds of prey, safety for the handler and
bystanders, caretaking, weight management, and
deploying the C-UAS birds of prey.”
However, it has been reported that a trial program
initiated by Dutch police was recently terminated over labor
costs and questions about how reliably the birds would
perform in noisy or crowded environments, and against
drones that can defend themselves. For most of us, a blast
of birdshot will probably be sufficient.
A Guard From Above trained eagle snatches an invasive drone.
Sony’s fourth-generation Aibo ERS-1000.