Adept Scientific recently donated two Sony AIBO dogs to The National Museum of Computing at Bletchly Park – home of the World’s first electronic computer. They might be just 14 years old, but that’s positively antique in computing technology terms! Named Spot and Rex, these cyber canines caused quite a stir when they were first bought in the summer of 1999 and became ‘office pets’ at the Adept Letchworth HQ. The interactive, ball-playing, tail-wagging, leg-cocking digital doggy duo were featured regularly on television and in the press at the time because they used state-of-the-art AI technology. There were only 5000 first generation AIBO dogs ever made and they went on sale only in the US and Japan. That makes them quite a rarity in the UK. Hence, they’re taking pride of place in the museum’s robotics display surrounded by a collage of press cuttings that any celebrity would be proud of.
Though Spot was mechanically complete, it didn’t actually work. Rex, on the other hand, still functioned but with a few glitches like an ‘arthritic’ leg and ‘Sleep Head Syndrome’ where he goes into sleep mode and won’t reactivate. The Museum team solved the limb issue by swapping one of Spot’s legs with Rex’s, though the sudden napping needs manual override using the sleep button on the front.
Rex gets the chance to show off to visitors occsionally under close supervision on special museum days and events like the recent visit from Doctor Who’s K9 (see photo) and he’s a big hit with the children who are interigued by his interactive antics.
If you’re passing Bletchley Park, why not pop in for a visit?
Refer to the Museum’s website for opening times and more information