Sony's Aibo robot dog returns but different from its predecessor

Sony Corp’s President and Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai holds entertainment robot ‘aibo’ at a news conference in Tokyo

Alongside the robot dog, Sony is launching a 2,980 yen ($26) bone-shaped toy accessory that promises to "spice up your life with Aibo". The time is nigh for a comeback, says Sony boss Kaz Hirai, as a ideal storm of better battery life, internet connectivity and the chance to put the modern buzzwords "artificial" and "intelligence" on the thing's box has arrived. Sony's new Aibo dog is an ivorywhite puppy-sized, 30 centimetre hound with flapping black ears and a wagging tail. It has a camera in its cute little nose too. The upgrade sees AIBO equipped with new sensing and movement technologies as well as far more advanced AI backed by cloud computing to develop the dog's personality. That'll be 198,000 yen to you.

The announcement for AIBO comes a day after the company's announcement that they foresee its highest-ever profit for 2017, bolstering its shares to a nine-year high.

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The comeback of Aibo is not only good news to pet owners, but also a declaration of Sony's transition from a consumer electronics manufacturer to a leading voice in A.I.

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". AI start-up focusing on technology that allows machines to learn continually and autonomously from interaction in the real world.

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"It eventually becomes able to respond to its owners' affection", Sony wrote in a news release.

The original AIBO was released in 1999 and at least 150,000 dogs were sold before production was stopped due to the downturn of Sony's core consumer electronics business against Asian rivals due to product prices.

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Note that the name of the electronic pet is a combination of the concepts "friend" and "artificial intelligence", by combining which, the developers got the name of the robot-dog - Aibo. It also established a venture capital fund to build partnerships with researchers and start-up companies in AI and robotics.


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