Sony is looking to recapture some of its old magic by revitalizing a project that has been dead and brought back to life more times than we can count — the smart dog Aibo.
The robotic dog has been around since 1999, serving as an alternative to a live animal that can bark, wag its tail, play fetch, and perform a number of other simple commands. The idea made sense, as Sony assumed people would rather shell out the dough for a fake dog over a real one who eats real food (and leaves real droppings).
Aibo failed to gain much traction early on, however, as the dog’s features got repetitive quickly. And the product wasn’t able to deliver the same level of companionship that a real dog brings to the relationship.
The project was once again resurrected in 2015 with more advanced capabilities, including having the ability to imitate up to 60 different emotions. Nevertheless, the $2,000 price tag was a tad too high for many.
Now Sony’s Aibo is coming back to meet current consumer demands in the form of a part-robotic dog, part-smarthome hub. The company hopes that the product will serve as a competitor to Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.
The project is currently slated for a spring 2018 release. Its functionalities will include the ability to perform all the same features as the robotic dog that some people fell in love with, plus it can tell you the weather, the time, set an alarm and more.
Not much has been unveiled regarding how Aibo will serve as a smart home hub, but it will likely serve a similar purpose to the Amazon Echo: taking voice commands, connecting with other smart devices in your home, playing music, streaming video, turning on the lights, and more.
Perhaps the new Aibo will serve more as a guard dog, informing its owner about the presence of an intruder. The potential for Sony’s idea is great as the robot dog will be open source, allowing software developers to improve Aibo’s skills.
Sony will reportedly release a number of other consumer offerings beyond Aibo that will help the company become relevant once again with products similar to the Echo, Samsung SmartThings and smart Apple devices.