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article imageSony injects pet robot dog Aibo with some AI to revive it

By Ken Hanly     Nov 1, 2017 in Technology
Minato - Sony's Aibo pet dog robot is returning to the market. Aibo was launched in 1999 originally. Sony claims the new dog has many nuanced expressions, and its body can move smoothly along 22 axes.
Sony makes the new Aibo sound quite human claiming it is "capable of forming an emotional bond with members of the household while providing them with love, affection, and the joy of nurturing and raising a companion." Aibo can respond to voice commands and also to petting so that it can learn what makes its owner happy.
Its AI capacities enable Aibo to learn the layout of your house over time as it can learn from its experiences. It can avoid obstacles and learn to take the most direct route between locations. Inside the robot is a quad-core CPU with LTE and Wifi built in. It has a number of sensors, motor, and gyroscopes as well as a speaker and four microphones.
The dog's battery lasts two hours and it takes three hours to charge fully. The dog obviously needs long rests after any lengthy play session!
All that love and affection from Aibo comes at a price. It will cost 179,000 yen or about $1,739 US. Shipments of the robot are expected to begin on January 11th. For now Aibo is only scheduled to be available in Japan.
The AI features of Aibo allow it to learn from its experiences and develop a unique personality over time. It is also connected to the Cloud.
There is a basic plan subscription that can back up Aibo's unique identity and also allows owners remote access via Wifi or a mobile connection. Cost for this is $27 per month or a 3-year subscription costs 90,000 yen or $790 US.
This subscription is necessary if Aibo's AI tendencies are to develop and to use the My Aibo app. This allows you to manage settings, access photos and play with a virtual version of Aibo. Aibo has its own camera to take pictures. You can also buy tricks for the dog at the Aibo store. However, your dog can learn from other robotic dogs. Sony does not say whether Aibo can also learn tricks from actual dogs.
No doubt many dog-lovers will decide to do without a robotic pet given the cost of purchasing Aibo. Even with AI Aibo is unlikely to match actual doggy intelligence. Nor are most people likely to regard the show of affection and love by Aibo as equal to that of their real pets. Also, the robot seems not to be advertised as being a good guard dog. Perhaps that will be in the future. On the other hand, it will probably not learn to bite the postman.
News of Aibo's relaunch came just a day after Sony forecast its highest ever profit this year an announcement that caused its shares to reach a nine-year high.
The original version of Aibo sold about 150,000 dogs in Japan. It ceased production about 7 years later when Sony was struggling in price wars with emerging rivals and needed to cut costs.
CEO Kazuo Hira said:“It was a difficult decision to stop the project in 2006, but we continued development in AI and robotics. I asked our engineers a year and a half ago to develop (new) AIBO because I strongly believe robots capable of building loving relationships with people help realize Sony’s mission (to inspire).”
The new Aibo has eyes that are made of organic light emitting diode (OLED)) displays that enable it to have diverse expressions. It can also remember words of praise and what actions please the owner.
Sony is aiming to generate at least as many sales of the new Aibo as of the original. The company is also considering overseas sales. Sony is planning to use AI as a future pillar of growth.
Sony invested a large sum in Cogital a US start-up that is focusing on technology that allows machines to learn continually and autonomously through interactions with the actual world. Sony has also established a venture capital fund that is designed to build partnerships with researchers and start-up companies in the areas of AI and robotics.
Sony already earlier this year launched a new product Koov whose aim is to teach children coding through building and programming robots using plastic blocks.
"Aibo" means partner in Japanese but can also stand for AI bot.
It remains to be seen whether consumers will be willing to pay the price for the robotic pet dog. Perhaps many consumers will be contented to stay playing with Playstation Pro.
Aibo comes to a market that already features smart and interactive toys such as Softbank's, Pepper robot, said to be a social companion for humans.
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