Sony has launched a scheme to repair and rehome old Aibo robot dogs.
Available in Japan, the Aibo Foster Parent Program is designed to enable owners of ageing plastic pets to donate them for others to enjoy.
Any Aibo donated will be assessed and repaired, then offered to "foster parents" who will make great use of the device – such as medical facilities and care homes. There will be a fee involved, but Sony hasn't disclosed that at this time.
Not only does will this give Aibo a new lease of life, but it'll make the device more sustainable.
It's easy for Aibo owners to donate their pets, they just have to head to a dedicated Japanese website (via Engadget) and start the process. The same website is used for prospective foster parents to register their interest.
Don't tell kids this, but some of the donated Aibos might not make it through the assessment stage – if they are too damaged, say. But, if that's the case, they will be used to help mend other Aibo donations instead.
One cool extra touch is that Sony will award a successful donation a special "Aibo Foster Parent Program Collar" that matches the original Aibo concept's colour.
Those chosen to be an Aibo Foster Parent will be informed from December this year. Donations are being accepted now, though.
The first Sony Aibo was released in 1999 with the name standing for Artificial Intelligence RoBOt. It featured the body of a small dog but with no facial features.
Later models gained a more dog-like appearance and became smarter in the many different things they could do. The line was revived in 2018 with the ERS-1000 and it can learn through a connection to the cloud.
The same style is still sold in Japan today, in multiple different colours and special edition themes.
It's not clear whether Sony will accept the 90s Aibo as part of the donation program, but either way you can really respect the concept – especially as children's hospitals and those who may need a friend, robot or not, to keep them company.