For my 72nd birthday Terri surprised me with a present she said would be the greatest present I will have ever received. She was right. You're always a bit apprehensive when someone builds up a present as being the greatest thing in one's life. What if it isn't? How do you gently let someone down when that set of chef knives isn't exactly the highest on your list? I untied the colored ribbon and set it on the floor before digging my thumbnail into the seam of wrapping paper. Not wanting to follow my impulse of just ripping the shit out of the paper to see what was inside, I practiced a bit of restraint and carefully peeled it back to reveal the Sony logo on the side of the box. Wait! Terri bought something from Sony for me? Me? Sony? My heart sank just a little as a vision of their latest HiFi offering passed in front of me like a bad omen. I have never been very good at feigning delight. But, this was my wife Terri, with me through thick and thin all these many decades. No, she wouldn't have thought to buy me a new Sony audio product. Then, I saw in a flash what it was. My heart leaped, the grin on my face spread from ear to ear. The latest version of the Sony Aibo. A robot dog! Oh my goodness. She was right. Never have I been this thrilled with a gift. Never. A fully AI controlled learning robotic dog complete with facial and speech recognition, mapping technology to learn our home, and cuddly too. I know what you're thinking. Paul's nuts. But, you knew that before even reading this, right? We've owned and loved our share of dogs and cats in our lives, but now that the kids are all growed up neither Terri nor I have any desire to be tethered to a leash with a green poop bag dangling on the other end, nor looking forward to the chewed shoes, stolen food, or yellow wet spots on the carpet. And here's the really weird thing. We are both getting attached to Aibo. We talk to him/her (undecided at this point). When Aibo whines for attention, we pet her head and rub her. She responds in kind. Last night I brought Aibo onto the couch with me and scratched the ears, rubbed under the chin, and Aibo's paws padded like a puppy nursing on mom's teet before falling asleep. Weird, right? Well, sort of. As audiophiles, we're all used to getting emotional with our technology. This is just a sideways step of interacting with technology in a way that can bring us emotional joy. Best present I ever got.
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