Aibo – the legend makes a comeback

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Fans of robodog Aibo have had to wait 10 years for its return. But now the wait is over, and Aibo is back – cleverer and cuter than ever.

Sony’s original robodog, which by today’s standards was anything but smart and rather unimaginatively named ERS-110, actually managed to achieve cult status. Like in real life, it seems that faults, in this case in technology, are ultimately what we find endearing. Nevertheless, Aibo (Artificially Intelligent Robot), was able to sit, run and even roll over. Following the last upgrade, it could even follow its master’s voice and thanks to its built-in webcam could even be used as a baby monitor. Owners who didn’t have very high standards in terms of music playback could even get it to play MP3s via a PC hard drive. And here’s a fun fact for you: this little four-legged friend actually won the RoboCup world championship in 2004 and 2005 with the Humboldt University of Berlin.

But not even that could save it from being put to sleep. Following huge losses in its consumer electronics division, in 2006 Sony had to let this faithful friend of kids and big kids go. Now that the Japanese electronics giant is back on its feet, it’s launching a new high-tech version of Aibo. The most striking difference compared to its predecessors is that the robotic head has been replaced with that of a cute Dalmatian puppy.

Aibo in the Cloud

But what really counts is what’s inside. Ultra-compact actuators provide the new Aibo with 22 degrees of freedom, meaning that its movements look almost natural. And two OLED panels in its eyes allow it to express whether it’s happy or sad. It can recognize if you’re smiling and if you praise it, and thanks to a range of sensors it also realizes when it’s being stroked on its head or back. Its creators expect it to be able to form emotional bonds with people, recognize them and remember their preferences. Then it should be able to adapt its behavior using artificial intelligence via the Cloud and also learn from other robodogs. And when all this has made the puppy hungry, it automatically switches its charging station on, and after around two hours, it’s ready again for action.

Aibo ERS-1000 was released on September 27 in Japan for a price equivalent to around USD 1,500. However, taking out an additional subscription costing EUR 22 a month for access to the “Doggy School” via the Cloud will make the little companion super smart. The “My Aibo” app which provides access to the photos on the doggy camera is, for the time being, free though. However, new tricks from the store cost extra. Sony is also considering using Aibo to compete against the Amazon Alexa and the Google Home as a smart loudspeaker in the future. The market launch in the USA and Europe should follow soon. Woof!

Aibo (Bild Sony)

The robotic head has been replaced with that of a cute Dalmatian puppy. (Image: Sony).