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Japanese Buddhist temple hosts funeral for over 100 Sony Aibo robot dogs

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Temple chief priest Bungen Oi holds a Sony pet robot AIBO after a robots' funeral at the Kofukuji temple in Isumi, Chiba on April 26, 2018.
Temple chief priest Bungen Oi holds a Sony pet robot AIBO after a robots’ funeral at the Kofukuji temple in Isumi, Chiba on April 26, 2018.

Image: NICOLAS DATICHE/AFP/Getty Images

Over 100 dogs just shared a funeral in Japan. The catch? They were all robots.

A group of Sony’s out-of-production, old-generation Aibo robot dogs were honoured with a traditional funeral service in Chiba Prefecture, reports The Japan Times.

The 114 dogs were formally lined up April 26 within Isumi’s historic Kofukuji Buddhist temple, and each was given a tag describing their family owners and place of origin, according to the publisher. 

The dogs are all different Aibo releases, including Sony’s first generation dogs launched in May 1999, and described as “the first robot designed for home entertainment purposes … equipped with adaptive learning and growth capabilities that allow each unit to develop a unique personality.”

More than 150,000 dogs of different iterations were sold over the years, before Sony discontinued Aibo in 2006.

Last version of Sony's pet robot AIBO moves in front old version displayed on an altar.

Last version of Sony’s pet robot AIBO moves in front old version displayed on an altar.

Image: Nicolas Datiche / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICOLAS DATICHE/AFP/Getty Images

The funerals are reportedly a practice instated by vintage electronics repair company A-Fun Co., who encourage people to send their broken old generation robot dogs in for a service, before they’re dismantled for parts like range finders and touch sensors. Sony even refers people to this company to get their older robodogs updated.

“We’d like to return the souls to the owners and make the robot a machine to utilize their parts,” Nobuyuki Norimatsu, head of A-Fun, told the Times. “We don’t take parts before we hold a funeral for them.”

A girl wraps an AIBO after the robots' funeral at the Kofukuji temple.

A girl wraps an AIBO after the robots’ funeral at the Kofukuji temple.

Image: NICOLAS DATICHE/AFP/Getty Images

With Sony canning Aibo in 2006, and closing its last Aibo repair clinic in 2014, owners were at a loss as to how to maintain their four-legged robofriends. Many held personal funerals in 2015.

Owners of older Sony Aibo robot dogs asked the tech giant in March 2018 to review their repair policy, which says that discontinued products won’t be maintained seven years after they’re canned. 

Sony’s Aibo robot dogs aren’t completely dead. The company surprised everyone in 2017 when it announced the return of Aibo, unveiling an AI-fuelled demo in January 2018 — with a whopping $2,000 price tag. 

The newest generation of the Aibo robot, which uses artificial intelligence.

The newest generation of the Aibo robot, which uses artificial intelligence.

Image: DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images

Importantly, you can’t sub in the parts from the new Aibo dogs with the older models — so resurrections are becoming harder and harder.

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