Sony brings Aibo back from the dead

The revival of Sony’s robotic dog, Aibo, has seen the company re-enter the race to conquer the AI market

Sony President and CEO Kazuo Hirai introduces Aibo during a press preview

On November 1, Sony announced it would recommence the production of its pet robot dog, Aibo, some 18 years after it was first released. The revival of Aibo appears to be an effort to steal a march on the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook in the burgeoning AI market.

The latest version of the robot dog comes with an assortment of new features, most notably facial recognition, a capacity to store memories and the ability to avoid obstacles.

In addition to these improvements, Aibo also incorporates new actuator technology, which allows it to move in a more lifelike manner. Voice recognition technology also gives users the opportunity to take photos remotely and save them to the cloud. Users can then access photos uploaded online via Aibo’s companion app, My Aibo.

In 1999, Sony was seen to be at the cutting edge of robotic technology with its Aibo series

According to a statement made by Sony: “Aibo can form an emotional bond with new members of the household while providing them with love, affection and the joy of nurturing and raising a companion.”

Aibo will be released in Japan this January with a price tag of JPY 198,000 ($1,738). The Japanese tech giant may also roll out Aibo in overseas markets in the not-too-distant future.

In 1999, Sony was seen to be at the cutting edge of robotic technology with its Aibo series. Sony sold around 150,000 of its robotic companions  before production came to a halt in 2006, amid mounting price pressure from regional rivals.

The announcement comes off the back of Sony reporting its fiscal second-quarter earnings, which outpaced proposed forecasts, rising from JPY 135.6bn ($1.2bn) to JPY 204bn ($1.8bn). The tech giant expects this run of success to continue until the end of the financial year, projecting an operating income of JPY 630bn ($5.5bn) – a figure that will see the company beat its best year on record.

This upsurge can be attributed to the resounding success of its PlayStation division, as well as a series of restructuring efforts that began in 2014. The news of Aibo’s rerelease has led Sony shares to increase by 11 percent, reaching a nine-year high.

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