If you are a fan of charming, compact artificial intelligence (AI), you will likely be wooed by the latest iteration of Sony’s robot dog, released Nov.1. The new model of Sony’s iconic hound is named Aibo (model number ERS-1000) and has enhanced AI and motor skills. Sony’s first robotic canine was released in 1999 and discontinued in 2006. It was also called AIBO for “AI Robot,” which sounds like aibō (相棒), meaning partner, buddy or pal in Japanese. The new Aibo has a notably cuter face and promises more complex bonding and interactive behaviors.
One reason the updated dog is so adorable is that it’s eyes use organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels to move and exhibit numerous expressions. OLEDs rely on organic semiconductors and are commonly used in TV computer and smartphone screens. Aibo 2017 also has a playful puppy face and a more agile body than previous versions.
The Aibo body has a wide range of motion – it can move freely along 22 axes with the use of small actuators (these convert electricity into mechanical motion). Aibo moves on its own – not only when called. Aibo the robot has a battery life of about two hours with a three-hour recharge cycle. According to Sony’s product site, each one has an “individual squeal.”
“The Aibo embodies our mission to keep stimulating people’s curiosity and move their hearts,” Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai told the press. Sony describes the new roly-poly AI companion in this way: “[it] can form an emotional bond with members of the household while providing them with love, affection, and the joy of nurturing and raising a companion.” This steep promise is based on the dog’s use of deep learning technology, in which levels and layers of learning build up and interact with each other over time. Aibo analyzes sensory input along with the actions and responses of owners and displays unique behaviors and habits based on its particular companions and home environment.
Aibo costs about $1,700 and is currently only available in Japan. Purchasers also have to pay about $25 each month for a subscription to Aibo’s cloud services, which can provide remote updates, new tricks, and access to photos taken with the pet’s fisheye camera. With permission from owners, Sony also plans to collect data from the Aibos and customers to boost its collective cloud intelligence. This pooch comes with a ball, as did the original, and a bone called “Aibone” can be purchased for $25.
Owners of previous Sony robot dog models were upset when service was discontinued in 2014 and some held funerals for their beloved pals. Sony says it has every plan to maintain long-term maintenance for the new dogs but will not necessarily resume fixing older versions. Fans of mess-free and zero-vet-bill canine companions will no doubt covet this compact robotic best friend. Aibos can be preordered as of Nov. 1 and will be on sale in January 2018.
A day before Aibo’s release, Sony announced the highest fiscal year profits ever. The day of Aibo’s release, share rose more than 11 percent.