Sony brings back pet ro­bodog af­ter a decade, but with a hefty price tag

Global Times - Weekend - - TECH - Agen­cies – Global Times

Ja­panese elec­tron­ics gi­ant Sony is mark­ing the year of the dog by bring­ing back to life its robot ca­nine – packed with ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and In­ter­net ca­pa­bil­ity.

Sony’s new “aibo” dog is an ivory-white puppy-sized, 30-cen­time­ter hound with flap­ping black ears and a wag­ging tail. It has the abil­ity to roll its eyes to dis­play emo­tions.

It comes with an ar­ray of sen­sors, cam­eras and mi­cro­phones and boasts In­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity, al­low­ing own­ers to play with the pet re­motely via smart­phone.

Sony’s ear­lier aibo ro­bodog was put to sleep more than a decade ago – a vic­tim of busi­ness re­struc­tur­ing – shock­ing fans of the dig­i­tal pet.

Sony rolled out the first­gen­er­a­tion aibo in June 1999, with the ini­tial batch of 3,000 sell­ing out in just 20 min­utes, de­spite a hefty price tag of 250,000 yen ($2,200 at cur­rent rates).

Over the fol­low­ing years, more than 150,000 units were sold, with nu­mer­ous mod­els rang­ing from gleam­ing metal­lic-sil­ver ver­sions to round-faced cub-like mod­els.

But by 2006, Sony was in trou­ble. Its busi­ness model was bro­ken and it was fac­ing fierce com­pe­ti­tion from ri­vals in all fields.

“It was a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to stop the project in 2006, but we con­tin­ued devel­op­ment in AI and ro­bot­ics,” Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Kazuo Hi­rai said at a news brief­ing.

The com­pany kept its “aibo clinic” open un­til March 2014, but then – po­litely – told ded­i­cated and loving own­ers that they were on their own, prompt­ing re­tired Sony engi­neers to of­fer re­pairs.

The new aibo will launch in Ja­pan in Jan­uary, but will not come cheap, priced at 198,000 yen. Sony will not re­sume re­pairs for older mod­els.

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