Two indisputable advantages of having a robot dog are that it’s cheap to keep and it doesn’t leave unwanted gifts around the house for you to step in. And if you happen to be in the process of making your home smart, what better companion to have padding about the place than your very own robotic canine?
At least, that’s what Sony hopes.
Having consigned Aibo to the great robot dog-run in the sky on more than one occasion in its 18-year history, the Japanese tech giant has resurrected the contraption yet again, and this time it looks more like a mutt than it ever has. With smarts to match.
The all-new Aibo is way cuter than before, with a fresh set of OLED eyes that “sparkle with a clever twinkle” to give it way more facial expressions than a household pet — whether real or robotic — really needs.
The revamped Aibo moves much more naturally, too, and sports “hundreds” of different movements and gestures thanks to a brand-new set of advanced actuators incorporated into its design.
Aibo gets to know you
But the most notable advances come thanks to artificial intelligence (A.I.). The technology, which has come a long way since Aibo was last seen shuffling along the carpet, enables the robotic pet to react to what it sees, modifying its behavior over time as it becomes increasingly familiar with its owner and other people that it meets.
Cameras behind Aibo’s eyes help it detect obstacles as it moves around, and it’ll even take a photo for you if you ask, while built-in sensors enable it to respond to spoken commands. It’ll even take kindly to a gentle pat on the head or tummy tickle.
Oddly, Sony has programmed Aibo so that it “loves anything pink,” while additional software code ensures the robot also has a fear of heights and tight spaces.
In what seem like more commendable efforts to give Aibo true dog-like qualities, its creators have also designed it to act unpredictably from time to time, though pooping in the kitchen when your back is turned is thankfully not in its range of unexpected behaviors.
The all-new, app-enabled Aibo can be pre-ordered in Japan now and starts shipping on January 11 for 198,000 yen (about $1,750), though new owners will also have to shell out 2,500 yen (about $22) a month for various cloud-based services that over time will apparently help the dog to learn new tricks (yes, apparently you can teach an old dog …)
There are no current plans to sell Aibo outside of Sony’s home country, but the fact that it has a slick website in English suggests Aibo could at some point be let off the leash overseas.
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