After SONY made a huge splash with AIBO, their robot pooch, companies around the world tried to cash-in on the robo-dog craze. Some of the clones were decent, but most were downright terrible. This is a list of just a few of them.
Potch / Spot-Bot
Ok, so this Takara toy actually predates the AIBO by more than a decade. It isn’t much in the way of sophistication, but when you factor in the nostalgia, the great design, and the cheap price, Potch makes for a fine desktop companion. And yes, he really moves.
Dasatech’s Genibo is roughly half the price of an Aibo and does an admirable job of replicating most of its selling-points. If the competition from the Korean companies can bring down the cost of robots to a more reasonable range, I’m all for it. This is easily the best AIBO knock-off by a mile.
The I-Cybie is the second best AIBO rip-off, and for that it deserves a milk bone. The technology inside doesn’t come close to the AIBO, but for most people that won’t matter. And at 1/10th the price, the I-Cybie almost seems like a steal. The main problem is you will probably get tired of the I-Cybie much sooner because all it really does is walk around. Adding insult to injury, it uses the annoying iPod naming convention.
Video: AIBO vs I-Cybie
Ok, so this isn’t really a robot dog but it’s a robot pet so it counts. Pleo from Ugobe boasts autonomous and life-like behavior, but if the reviews are anything to go by, this ugly toy is nothing but a pile of junk. Thankfully Ugobe didn’t go the Mecha-Godzilla WowWee Toys route, but the design they chose is just as gaudy and unrealistic.
The two best things that have ever happened to Pleo were being run over by Dave Letterman’s r/c monster truck and getting ripped to shreds by a ComBot gladiator:
Things to hate about the Pleo:
- at $350 it doesn’t match customer expectations
- cheap mechanical parts, limited mobility
- false claims of ‘autonomous behavior’
- batteries only last 1-2 hours
- you have to take the batteries out to charge them
- looks like a stuffed toy rather than a real dinosaur
- looks vaguely brontosauri but species is unclear, a no-no for dino enthusiasts everywhere
- a triceratops would be cooler
WowWee indeed. Like all of their products, WowWee Toys’ Robopet is an ugly plastic abortion that will feel at home in a landfill within weeks of purchase. Just look at how stupid this thing is. You’d be better off eating the $50 it would take to buy it. My main gripe about WowWee Toys is that they’re setting the bar so low for home robotics.
Things to hate about Robopet:
- cheap parts, destined for the junk heap
- one of the ugliest mofos you’ve ever seen
- comes with a fat-ass remote that is just as ugly
- waste of plastic and money
- doesn’t live up to Mark Tilden’s (founder of WowWee Toys) reputation as a know-it-all roboticist
SEGA and Hasbro Toys are the guilty parties this time around. Mio Pup displays 128 different “eye-cons” (get it?) to communicate its “feelings”. It can wag its tail, wiggle its ears, and plays a tune when it’s in the right mood. I can think of about a billion things I’d rather spend $60 USD on, but the following knock-off isn’t one of them…
Wrex the Dawg
WowWee Toys has not one but two robo-rip-offs in its catalog of crap. Like the Robopet, Wrex the Dawg has more in common with standard toys than a real robot, and its price reflects that. Like those crippled dogs you’ve seen on tv, Wrex is missing his hind legs which have been replaced by wheels. As a result, he doesn’t so much walk as pull himself around like a dog rubbing its butt on the carpet.
Things to hate about Wrex
- spelling dog as ‘dawg’
- who am I kidding, what’s not to hate about it
Tiger Electronics was the first to try and cash-in on the AIBO’s word of mouth with this palm-sized toy. What it lacked in sophistication it offset with a low and affordable price of $30-$40 USD for parents of kids who just had to have a robotic pup of their own. Its eye shield lights up with cartoony eyes and it has touch sensors but what do you expect for $30?
Me & My Shadow
This remote-controlled dog came in a variety of colors and could respond to 10 voice commands via the included headset. It could walk, but it could not lie down, respond to touch, or detect obstacles. Its beady little eyes lead me to believe this is a fire hazard waiting to burst into flames when everyone has gone to sleep, burning down the house and everyone inside in a fiery blaze.
Rocket the Wonder Dog
Really, this is starting to get ridiculous. There’s no reason for this dog to be a robot dog other than the fact the AIBO was popular. To be fair, it does have touch sensors on its head and back, performs dog-like gestures (scratching robot fleas) and can respond to voice commands via a headset. It required 3 “D” and one 9-volt alkaline battery for the dog, plus 3 “AAA” alkaline batteries for the headset. All this can end up in the dump for only $100 USD.
Tekno has no tech – well it has a light sensor, can make farting noises, and whimpers if it walks into a wall. The remote control and touch sensors on its head and back trigger different routines. Various models were made, including silver and dalmation versions, as well as a horse type. $129.99 USD, flushed down the toilet.
USB Robo Dog Webcam
This is definitely one of the most egregious copies out there, looking almost exactly like the AIBO ERS-110 model, but SONY never sued. It’s actually just a cheap USB webcam, which unfortunately must connect in a rather uncomfortable spot. Good job, Designer Guy. $22 USD better spent elsewhere.
Robo Dog Pencil Sharpener
Apparently there is no god, as evidenced by this hideous creation. This is real. This exists. I still can’t get over that. This is the perfect gift for anyone who hates robot dogs. Simply impale it in the head with a pencil and rigorously twist it to sharpen. I don’t get why they didn’t put the sharpening socket in the mouth. Designer Guy strikes again.
STUFF Magazine’s AIBO Hoax
STUFF magazine choked the pooch when they ran this AI-faux article. Some blogs even reported that it was the real deal. Oops. Unfortunately, SONY hasn’t had the presence of mind to resurrect their famous line of entertainment robots – but if they do, it probably will have some connection to the PlayStation. An AIBO that can communicate with a user’s PS3 or PSP could have all sorts of potential.
Well, that about wraps things up.
The scary thing is, this list could go on for pages and pages.