Sony’s Aibo robot dog is back and smarter than ever

Sony has brought back its Aibo robot dog with a mechanical canine that’s been stuffed with smart capabilities.

The Japanese electronics giant discontinued the Aibo robot dog line more than a decade ago, but the cost of making the Aibo, which means ‘partner’ in Japanese, saw the AI-powered four-legged friend consigned to Sony’s kennel in the sky.

But now it’s back with computer smarts that not only provide the new Aibo dog with the ability to respond to human commands, but loads the robot with fish-eye cameras and a suite of embedded sensors so it can better figure out what’s going on around it through sound and sight.

Making use of deep learning technology courtesy of a cloud connection, the new Aibo is slated to be a good deal smarter than its now ancient predecessor; the original Aibo preceded smartphones.

The Aibo’s AI system will be able to adapt the robot dog’s behaviour in response to the environment it’s in and its interactions with people.

“Not content with merely waiting around to be called, curious little Aibo will actively seek out its owners. What’s more, Aibo can detect words of praise, smiles, head and back scratches, petting, and more, allowing it to learn and remember what actions make its owners happy,” said Sony.

“Slowly but surely, Aibo will also become more aware of its environment, and as it gains confidence it will learn to walk around an increasingly wider area and respond to situations accordingly.”

While the original Aibo made interesting use of computer vision it was a little clumsy in its movements; not only is the new Aibo more intelligent, it also has improved actuators to make its movements seem more natural.

The new Aibo also has OLED eyes which Sony noted will allow it to give more nuanced and diverse expressions. Powering all this tech is a quad-core 65bit processor.

Battery life is around two hours with a recharge time of three hours, so don’t go expecting the Aibo to be as active as a real dog.

As it’s 2017, the Aibo will come with a dedicated smartphone app, which will allow owners to adjust the settings of their robot dog and get additional tricks for it to perform from the ‘Aibo Store’, as well as view any photos the dog’s cameras may have taken.

Measuring in at a foot tall and weighing 2kg, the new Aibo is around the size of a very small flesh-and-bone canine.

The new Aibo’s tech and smart systems come at a price; starting at 198,000 Yen around £1,300, with a monthly subscription to its smart services costing around £20.

Furthermore, the new Aibo will only be available in Japan, so if you’re keen to get your hands on the robotic canine be prepared to import it when the Aibo is released in January.

For more accessible smart home tech, perhaps take a look at the Google Home Mini or the Amazon Echo.

Related: 10 of the coolest robots in the world 

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