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AIBO - The Wonder Dog, AI, and a Fur Coat

I recently discovered a rare breed of dog called AIBO. It’s the perfect pedigree since it doesn’t shed, chew furniture, or bite. You don’t even have to take it for a walk. Sadly though, it will soon be extinct. 

You see AIBO is a robotic dog that Sony built back in 1999. They came in a variety of colors, were programmed to speak over 1,000 words, and some understood more than a 100 including Spanish. They could even wag their tails when pat on the head. Back then this was cutting edge technology. 

AIBO and friend

AIBO and friend

My first thoughts were this is crazy.   Why would grown people pay some $2000 for fake dogs? Then I watched a video of an elderly Japanese couple who had one.   They talked to it, played with it, walked it, and even put it to bed. Suddenly it all made sense. People weren’t just buying a dog. They were buying love. 

While people loved them, Sony’s profit and loss didn’t measure up. Instead of selling tens of millions they only sold about 150,000. So, in 2007 Sony stopped production and then in 2015 shut down their repair division. This was so devastating to “pet” owners they formed support groups to help each other deal with the prospect that their aging pets would break down for good. 

If you think that’s over the top, how about a full-blown ceremonial funeral? The lifeless AIBO’s are lined up on the altar while Buddhist priests chant prayers and owners pray for their souls. The formal ritual helps grieving owners deal with their loss as their beloved companions now become parts donors to other dogs.

For those who just can’t let go, there is cyber-vet Nobuyuki Norimatsu, a former Sony engineer. With a waitlist of some 200 dogs it can take several months at a minimum cost of $200, but owners don’t care. They just want their best friends healthy again. 
This cute little canine’s popularity grew world-wide. An AIBO was once featured on the sitcom Frasier and one US owner’s collection is worth $125,000 today. It’s a toy that changed the world. 

What’s in our future? Domestic pets could be replaced by robotic impostors by 2025 according to Australian researcher Dr. Jean-Loup Rault. “Robotic pets will take off in the next 10 to 15 years and tech companies are already jockeying for position in the market,” he said. 
First up is WowWee which debuts its Canine Home Intelligent Pet or “CHiP” this fall. Priced at $199, it brags to be the next best thing to a real dog. It can fetch, auto charge itself, wake you in the morning, and greet you at the door when you come home. These elemental basics are what satisfy a human’s need to have a real dog.   So if an animatronics could provide that same satisfaction then humans, who are innately anthropomorphic, could conceivably embrace them. This might explain why people became so attached to a plug-in pet like AIBO. 
Fast forward a few years and we’ve gone from toy bots to super bots so sophisticated and intelligent they could rule the universe. Today’s BOTS are hard core taskmasters designed to simplify and improve man’s life much like machines and automation did during the Industrial Revolution.   

Dog Bots making headlines are SPOT whose specialty is military maneuvers, bomb sniffing, and disaster rescue; mule-sized rugged terrain champ Big Dog who can run 4 mph and carry loads up to 350 lbs; and N003 a robotic guide dog for the blind. If you’re looking for help with chores or to bring you a beer, General Dynamic’s MiniSpot is at your service. 

If a human can fall in love with a fake dog, could they fall in love with a desk lamp? Don’t laugh. If you’re world-renowned robotics visionary Guy Hoffman the answer is yes. He believes humans can bond emotionally with a robot. His robots are far from humanoid in appearance, yet they become human-like through their movements. Hoffman says it’s their motion that makes humans feel emotion for them and want to treat them more like companions.   
In “Robots with Soul” you can see two of Hoffman’s robotic creations. There’s marimba player Shimon free-styling with a rapper and Travis, a 2-headed speaker jamming to music. What’s significant here is how all of a sudden the rapper engages in eye contact with the robot like he’s another musician.   And Travis goes from an odd looking robot to a cute little guy you want to hang with. 

An android world is driven by artificial intelligence. If robots get smarter than humans, will we become nothing more than a house pet? Those were recent comments made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. His solution is a neural mesh that fits on the brain to give it digital computing capabilities. He believes the two working together would let humans stay on pace with artificial intelligence. It’s all alien creepy, but maybe not so far-fetched. 
Ray Kurzweil - one of the world’s leading inventors, thinkers, futurists and now Google’s Director of Engineering - says that in 15 years computers are going to trump people. And that by 2045 they will be a billion times more powerful than all of the human brains on Earth.   He cites the AI revolution as the most profound transformation of human civilization we will ever experience. It will allow us to reprogram our own biology and manipulate matter at atomic and molecular levels. That kind of sci-fi supremacy means we’re in for a wild ride.

At this point though, no one knows for sure where this technology will lead us. But the Japanese have taken a huge step in pushing forward. They recently introduced Pepper, a talking humanoid robot that reads emotions and tells jokes when you are sad. It sold out of its initial 1,000 units in one minute back in June at a cost of around $1600 each. Robot staff is slowly going main stream being rolled out in stores, airports, and hotels throughout Japan.
President Hideo Sawada of the new Henn-na Hotel says, “In the future, we’d like to have more than 90 percent of hotel services operated by robots.   They will be capable of having conversations with humans.” But the technology doesn’t stop there. Guest room doors will open by facial recognition and instead of air conditioners a radiation panel will detect body heat and adjust a room’s temperature accordingly. You get all that for $60 to $119 dollars. Beat that Priceline!

Kurzweil believes the 21st century will achieve 1,000 times the progress of the 20th as technology continues to advance exponentially. Google will know the answer to your question before you ask it and it will have read every email or document you’ve ever written and every idle thought you’ve ever typed into a search-engine. It will know you better then you know yourself. That’s too scary a thought to even think about.

Like it or not, robots are the new reality and might be your next best friend. As artificial intelligence reinvents the universe, where do man and his dog fit in? By mid-century an increasingly urbanized world population of nearly 10 billion could mean that real animals will be a luxury only for the super-rich. 

Until then, I’m going to enjoy my humanness and treasure my Ms. Maru. I want to feel her fur coat, look into her soulful eyes, and hear that familiar annoying bark. While a robot dog can do many things, it can’t give you sloppy kisses that fill your heart with love. That’s the real deal. 

Arrfscarf Dog Ice Cream Q & A

We frequently are asked specific questions about our Dog Ice Cream. This Q & A hopefully answers some of those frequent questions. 

Q- Why Dog Ice Cream?

A- Why not? People love this frozen dessert treat year round, so should our best friend! If pups are going to have a frozen treat, it should be a treat designed around their unique digestive system. We would hate for pups to consume large amounts of processed ingredients. Our dog ice cream takes into consideration pup's sensitive stomachs. 

Q- My dog has never had Dog Ice Cream, how do they eat it?

A- Arrfscarf Dog Ice Cream comes in a 4 oz. container and contains 3.3 oz which is a single serving. Most dogs know to start licking as soon as the cup hits the floor. Tiny dogs sometimes need you to hold it for a bit, and a small amount of dogs prefer it to defrost a tad. If your dog tends to eat everything in sight, we recommend that you squeeze out the contents into their bowl so they don’t eat the plastic container (which is bpa free).

Q- I thought dogs couldn’t have ice cream because of the dairy?

A- Real ice cream is made from milk or cream which contains large amounts of lactose. Lactose is hard for some people to digest, and that is the same for dogs. Using yogurts with live cultures breaks down the lactose so it can be easily digested. 

Q- What kind of yogurt does Arrfscarf use in their Dog Ice Cream?

A- We use both Greek non-fat and regular low-fat yogurts. None of which have any added  sweeteners. All contain live cultures and probiotics.

Q- Are their real benefits to having your dog eat Dog Ice Cream?

A- Yes. The yogurt is an excellent source of protein and calcium for your dog. The probiotics aid in a healthy immune system and keep the bad bacteria in check.

Q- What makes Arrfscarf Dog Ice Cream different than others?

A- A lot! We only use quality yogurts, real ingredients (no flavorings), and no preservatives. We do not add stabilizers, sugar, or salt. The meat used in all of our Dog Ice Cream is sourced locally in Chicago and every batch is handmade. For example, when we make the Beef Brisket flavor, we slow roast the beef for 8 hours so it can get real tender before being added to the Dog Ice Cream. 

Q- What if my dog can only have certain fruits or vegetables, or has a sensitive stomach?

A- At Arrfscarf we have worked hard to select and use only ingredients that are good for dogs. All Dog Ice Cream we make is grain and wheat free. There are many flavors we have done in the past that are not listed on our site using strawberries, mint, blueberries, carob chips, etc. 

Let us know if you have any other questions, and please remember that Arrfscarf Dog Ice Cream is a treat and not a meal replacement. 


Watch a video of Pretzel eating our dog ice cream

A recipe using Human Super Foods for dogs

In our previous post we talked about superfoods for dogs, to continue the trend we created a recipe using a few top ingredients. 

Kale- Now known as a Super Food for Dogs, it has been proven to help at least 5  types of cancers in humans and research has shown it provides the same benefits to dogs. It lowers cholesterol, is full of nutrients, is an anti inflammatory and an antioxidant. 

Quinoa- Is thought of being one of the most complete foods in nature. It contains protein, magnesium, fiber, manganese, and copper. Quinoa is NOT a grain so it is easily digestible and good for dogs with food allergies and digestive problems. 

Carrots- They are high in fiber, contain beta carotene and vitamin A. A great low-fat snack that is good in raw form too.

Olive Oil- This is an ingredient most dog owners probably don’t think to feed their dogs (in small amounts). It contains high levels of antioxidants and is very effective in helping with disease. Adding olive oil to your dogs food can help with premature aging and cognitive decline as they get older. For more benefits and an in depth look at Olive Oil for your dog check out this link...

Kale- 1/2 Ib. cleaned and chopped

Quinoa- 1 C

Carrots- 7 medium peeled and chopped

Olive Oil- 1 T

Chicken Breast- optional

Kale, quinoa, carrots, olive oil, and chicken breast

Kale, quinoa, carrots, olive oil, and chicken breast


First, in a medium size pot warm up the olive oil on low heat and add carrots (cover pot). Cook for 20 minutes stirring from time to time. Add chicken breast slices at the 15 minute point to get the flavors cooking together. In a small pot cook the quinoa in 2 cups water (cover pot) for 20 minutes on low heat.

Second, pour the carrot mix into a bowl and use the same pot (it has olive oil residue and flavors) to cook the kale in with 8 cups of water (cover pot). Another option is to cook the kale in some chicken or vegetable stock (low sodium) to get more flavors incorporated for pickier dogs. Cook kale for about 20 minutes, until soft.

Finally, drain the kale and mix everything together in a large bowl that can be sealed the fridge. It will last approximately one week.

We try different recipes all the time to incorporate in to Ms. Maru’s food. I am not going to lie, but I wasn’t sure she would eat kale, as much as I wanted to think she would. The first day I scooped a cup full out and put it over her dry food. The first day the kale took a few extra minutes to chew and landed outside of her bowl, but it was all gone. Day two, everything was eaten in a matter of minutes, this is better than I expected. I did add chicken to the recipe as optional, and thought she might be more inclined to eat it this way. I am ecstatic that she is loving her Super Foods!

our finished superfood for dogs

our finished superfood for dogs