Optimus Prime goes to war

Dog bites robot

By now, you’ve probably read about the exploding popularity of Sony’s Aibo robotic dog. You may also know that people have demonstrated an incredible ability to become emotionally attached to the little critters. Some people buy so many Aibos they have an entire herd. Some psychologists are giving Aibos to lonely elderly people to keep them company. (And some technology thinkers like Sherry Turkle are getting increasingly freaked out by that spectacle.) Clearly, many humans enjoy thinking of Aibos as real.

But what about dogs? Are they fooled?

To find out, a handful of French scientists have been setting up experiments where real, live dogs interact with Aibos. As they note on their website, two kinds of situations are tested. “In the first one, puppies and adult dogs interact freely with the robot.” So far, so good.

Until the second scenario — when the scientists get Darwinian. “In the second one, we organise a situation of implicit competition in which the dog has to defend a piece of meat against the arrival of the robot.”

The result? Well, click here and you can watch what is surely a first in the history of science: Live video of a snarling dog kicking the living shit out of a hapless robot.

Even more gorgeous is the explanatory text that accompanies this video:

The horrible screams that you hear at the end of this film were made by the experimenters, who were startled to see the dog attack the AIBO.

This was the first time that the AIBO was attacked, but it was not the last. During the course of the experiment, the AIBO was sometimes knocked over, bitten and chewed. It is still in perfect working order, and shows no visible signs of damage.

Nevertheless, we strongly advise you not to try anything similar with your AIBO. AIBO is strongly built, but it contains many delicate components that could be easily damaged. Your warranty will not cover you if AIBO is damaged in this way.

No animals were hurt or mistreated in any way during the course of this experiment.

I quite literally cannot stop laughing.

(Thanks to Plastic for unearthing this gem! If you want to read more, there’s a story at Discover magazine discussing robot/animal interactions.)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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