Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 01/11/2001Despite what Blunkett said, mind-altering substances are still frowned on - especially if the mind being is that of Sony's Aibo. A dedicated hacker wrote a program called DiscoAibo that made the robo-mutt dance along to music -- harmless enough, you'd have thought.

Thursday 01/11/2001

Despite what Blunkett said, mind-altering substances are still frowned on - especially if the mind being is that of Sony's Aibo. A dedicated hacker wrote a program called DiscoAibo that made the robo-mutt dance along to music -- harmless enough, you'd have thought. I know that if I'd shelled out a few thousand dollars on an automated mongrel I'd expect it to be able to bop along to the Aphex Twin -- hell, I'd demand it. But Sony were enraged, and demanded that said hacker pull the program and any technical details from his site.

I suppose there is a point to that -- any complex electromechanical device has the potential to be damaged, perhaps even dangerously so, if the controlling software pushes the motors or other components over the limits. The Aibo, in common with many power-hungry consumer devices, has batteries capable of delivering a lot of power in a short period of time, and nobody wants a case of computerised canine combustion. And Sony has spent a lot of time and money in making the control software, which it doubtless wants to protect.

Yet isn't there a halfway house? Let's have an interface for programmers that lets them control the Aibo within safe limits, and use all Sony's clever motion stuff without revealing how it works. We could then look forward to a cyber-Crufts, where proud programmers show off just how smart and cute they've made their pseudo-pets.

Much more fun all round!

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