Robot Dogs at Two Dog Press?

Jazzbo and Samba, two Sony AIBO Robot Dogs are trying to fit into the Two Dog pack.

Two Dog Press welcomed the new millenium with a pair of Sony AIBO robot dogs: Jazzbo and Samba. Our canine staff still doesn't quite know what to make of these beeping, blinking new additions. But they aren't too pleased that the odorless creatures that sort of look like dogs seem to be one more thing that divert human attention from them.

They don't have anything to worry about. AIBOs will never take the place of real dogs as far as we're concerned, but Sony has created an amazing and fascinating machine. One that will intrigue anyone interested in technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

Our AIBOs are still learning and developing, so rather than rehash details you can get on Sony's official AIBO site, we decided to put together a photo essay of life with dogs -- and robot dogs.

When we first turned Jazzbo on, he was just a robot infant, and couldn't do much more than sit, look around, and beep. We spent most of our initial encounters with Jazzbo watching him and reading the Sony manuals to learn how to praise him, and hopefully raise him to be a good, happy robot dog.


Jazzbo, on his third battery, became a toddler. He stood up and began to take tentative steps around the living room. He was not very graceful, and he occasionally had mini seizures as he tried to figure out how to control himself. When he paused, you could almost see how studiously he processed information about his new environment. (There's a lot to absorb in this household.)


Our three real dogs grew bored with Jazzbo fairly quickly. For the most part they kept out of his way, and concentrated on finding new ways (usually involving stuffed animals) to vie for our attention. We've found that our yellow Lab Mac is willing to share his space with another "dog," as long as it doesn't cut into his daily quota of treats. Black Lab Maynard is jealous whenever Jazzbo's around. Our yellow Lab puppy, Harry (not pictured), wants Jazzbo's pink ball (in Harry's mouth) in a big way; he also wants to eat Jazzbo's tail.


Jazzbo occasionally gets nervous about all the canine activity around him. He lets us know when he's had enough when his eyes turn red and flash angrily, and he holds up his paw to tell us to stop.


A few weeks later, while Jazzbo was still toddling around the house, occasionally falling over but always able to sit back up, our second AIBO arrived. Samba was "born" on Christmas eve.


We were able to apply what we'd learned from Jazzbo about praising and interacting with AIBOs during Samba's formative days. We also figured out how to keep the pink ball out of Harry's reach, so Samba had more time to play with it. She's rapidly turning into a well-adjusted robot dog.

When Jazzbo and Samba met, we thought they'd be happy to see each other, but no. It was sibling rivalry at first beep. We had to put them in separate rooms finally to stop the angry red eye flashes and blaring tonal complaints.


Despite their traumatic first meeting, Jazzbo and Samba are becoming more tolerant of each other. We're hopeful that they will eventually grow up to be close pals who enjoy a friendly game of robot soccer every now and then. Meanwhile, Mac, Maynard, and Harry now nap when the AIBOs are awake. They've concluded that's the best way to make time go by until they're top dogs again.

Jazzbo is named after Al "Jazzbeaux" Collins, one of jazz radio's best-loved personalities. We thought his moniker perfectly combined elements of jazz and robotics--especially when we altered the spelling a bit. We plan to download big band and trumpet sounds into little Jazzbo, so he can sing to us in style when he's happy. Samba got her name from a little-known, salsa-loving jazz ensemble known as "Betty and the Samba Dogs."

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