Sony’s 90s robot dog is back and more loyal than ever

I dogged my parents for a puppy when I was a kid until they gave in and gifted me one for Christmas. Well, a robot one at least. It was Sony’s Aibo. The little robot dog received my undying love, right up until the point at which he ran away. I have a sneaky suspicion that he ended up in the bin, though.

Thankfully, it looks like I can get myself a new one – although I’m not sure my real dog would be too thrilled. Sony has just announced that they will be bringing the Aibo back and giving the retro robodog a new and refreshed update that will have its tail wagging into the 21st century.

The revived artificially intelligent dog can interact and learn with its surroundings as well as its owner. Able to develop its own personality, Aibo will be kitted with new sensing and movement technologies, as well as highly advanced AI that’s supported by cloud computing. The robo-dog can detect smiles and run towards its owner, learning command words and remembering its owner’s favourite tricks.

There is a creepier aspect to the dog though, as unlike the first generation, it can take pictures and record everything that it experiences, creating a database of memories for its owner to flick back through using the My Aibo app. Y’know, just like a real dog doesn’t. As well as looking at photos, the app lets you download tricks and gives you access to the settings.

The pet uses two OLED panels for eyes which allow it to show a range of expressions. It has a battery life of two hours and supposedly takes three hours to recharge. Annoyingly, you’re also required to have a subscription which costs 2,980 yen (£20) a month for a minimum of three years, giving you access to Wi-Fi, LTE, the app and cloud backup.

Sony first bred the Aibo way back in 1999, giving the world one of the first ever tastes of artificially intelligent household devices. The dog sold out in 20 minutes when it first launched and was such a success that Sony followed it up with two more generations of robo-litters. But there were other, much cheaper pups entering the market that forced Sony to end Aibo production in 2006.

“It was a difficult decision to stop the project in 2006 but we continued development in AI and robotics,” said Sony’s CEO Kazuo Hirai in a press briefing.

“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 realise Sony’s mission, to inspire,” he added a little creepily.

You can preorder the Aibo in Japan right now and it will go on sale on 11 January 2018. It costs a whopping 198,000 yen (£1,300), but there are no plans to release it outside of Japan yet.

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