Thinking out of the box in 'User Generated Innovation'

Have you ever wondered why, once famous robot pets - disappeared from the market? Sony was the market leader for many years and still decided to exit the market. 

Why was AIBO discontinued?

In 2006, AIBO was added into Carnegie Mellon University's "Robot Hall of Fame". 
Robot Hall of Fame at CMU describes AIBO as:

"the Sony AIBO represents the most sophisticated product ever offered in the consumer robot marketplace."[1]

AIBO (Artificial Intelligence Robot, homonymous with aibō (相棒?), "pal" or "partner" in Japanese) was an iconic series of robotic pets designed and manufactured by Sony. Sony announced a prototype robot in mid-1998. The first consumer model was introduced on May 11, 1999. New models were released every year until 2005. 

Some enthusiastic underground communities got together and hacked AIBO to perform actions that were not within the recommended guidelines for this pet. 

What do you think Sony's response should have been?

a) Collaborate with hackers or
b) Sue them for violating the guidelines

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Sony made a fatal mistake by not leveraging the tremendous potential of this amazing product.

Instead of opening doors to 'User Generated Innovation' and leveraging the unimaginable potential of the product, Sony sued the hackers who made the robot to dance instead of behaving like a pet!
A more win-win response would have been to collaborate with the communities and come up with a platform to enable further innovation with the enthusiasts.

If you come across any such situation, don't treat it as a threat to corporate values. There could be a enormous potential in such initiatives and end-users love them these days.

Some of the suggestions to thinking out of the box include:

  • Introducing local volunteer clubs 
  • Design you own box and we will package it for you forums.
  • Enable prototyping of your own robot pets
  • Sell prototypes on club sites

Companies ought to find lead user innovations instead of just depending on voice of the customer. We want to have some research around here that does not regard these users as outliers, but goes out and finds them. Thus, enormously empowering for the user. 

Sadly, on January 26, 2006 Sony announced that it would discontinue AIBO and completely closed the doors for 'User Generated Innovation'.

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