Sony has launched the "Aibo Foster Parent" program for its $2,900 robot dogs, allowing owners whose basic plans have been canceled to donate them. The company will then refurbish the Aibos as necessary and donate them to medical facilities, foster homes and other organizations. The aim is to "make Aibo more sustainable," the company said, by giving the units a second home where they can provide emotional support and more.
The Aibo robot dogs in question are the newer 2019 ERS-1000 units still being sold, which are a reboot of its "entertainment" robotic dogs from the late 1990s. It's not exactly a fully charitable project, as Sony will charge "foster parents" an unnamed fee for service. It also notes that depending on condition, some donated units may serve strictly as parts for other Aibo robots.
As we discussed in our review back in 2019, Aibo can do a number of tricks like standing on its hind legs and greeting its owner at the door, and has been engineered to "mature" over time like a real dog. It also offers a web-based interface that lets you program custom actions. The units have a suite of sensors and respond to voice and touch, and can even recognize specific people, so they're ideal as emotional support devices. That means they can sub in at facilities that don't allow real animals, so the program seems like a good use of older units — while also reducing e-waste.