Sony revives pet AI project with updated AIBO robot dog

Alan Olson
November 2, 2017

Sony is banking on the "irresistible cuteness" of its new robot dog to win over consumers. These eyes are small screens that can give the robotic dog diverse and nuanced expressions, in addition to a rounded silhouette and a mouth that tilts up in a smile.

In a news briefing to introduce AIBO, Sony's Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai said "It was a hard decision to stop the project in 2006, but we continued development in AI and robotics".

Aibo is now available for pre-order in Japan Sony stores for ¥198,000 (about $1,700) with a limited supply.

On Wednesday, Sony Corporation announced that they have relaunched their pet AI project and updated AIBO a decade after he was first introduced as the company's bid to rebuild its reputation as a pioneer for innovation after its restructuring is complete.

Aibo can be controlled by a user's voice and is cloud-connected.

In a press release, Sony highlights "irresistible cuteness" as Aibo's primary feature.

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"Slowly but surely, Aibo will also become more aware of its environment, and as it gains confidence it will learn to walk around an increasingly wider area and respond to situations accordingly".

AIBO's first launch began in 1999, selling about 150,000 dogs in Japan before ending production 7 years later when the consumer electronics business struggled in price wars with Asian competitors.

The gadget is a reminder of Sony's pioneering past in robotics and artificial intelligence.

The company has pumped resources into the technology, teaming up with USA firm Cogitai and launching a venture capital fund previous year focused on investing in AI and robotics startups around the world.

In 2016, it invested an undisclosed sum in US-based Cogitai, an AI startup focusing on technology that allows machines to learn continually and autonomously from interaction in the real world. It also established a venture capital fund to build partnerships with researchers and start-up companies in AI and robotics.

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