Aibo Robot Dog Returning in 2018
Sony is launching a refreshed version of its Aibo robot dog in 2018. The new Aibo will feature artificial intelligence (AI), internet connectivity, voice control, and the ability to control connected devices throughout its environment.
After a 12-year hiatus from the robotics industry, Sony will be re-entering the market in 2018, albeit with a familiar product.
Nikkei Asian Review reports Sony is developing a refreshed version of its popular Aibo robot dog. Sony is reportedly assembling a new team with the same designers involved in the original Aibo robot dog that launched in 1999 and was halted in 2006.
The upgraded Aibo will feature artificial intelligence (AI), internet connectivity, voice control, and the ability to control connected devices throughout its environment, Nikkei reports. According to the report, “Sony plans to make the proprietary operating system an open platform to allow outside developers to add features.”
Sony hinted in 2016 at developing industrial robots for factory automation, but it deemed the competition too fierce and well-established to gain significant market-share. Thus, the return to consumer robotics.
Aibo was the world’s first home entertainment robot with AI. Aibo came with an array of sensors, a camera and microphone, and the final generation could talk. Sony sold more than 150,000 units at 250,000 yen (over $2,000).
There are no details yet on price or where the new Aibo will be available, but there are other robot pets available in the US, including WowWee’s CHiP robot dog and Hasbro’s Joy for All line, but none have made significant inroads. Aibo was quite popular in Japan, selling out in under 20 minutes of going on sale.
Nineteen Aibo owners actually held a funeral for their irreparable devices at the Kofuku-ji Temple in Chiba Prefecture, Japan in 2015 after the last Aibo repair shop closed.
Sony’s head of intellectual property, Toshimoto Mitomo, admitted in 2016 the company is “deeply aware of how previous claims in AI have failed to pan out.” Sony also said at the time it will work robots that would “win people’s hearts.”
Update on Nov. 1, 2017: Sony confirmed today it is re-releasing Aibo. As for the price, it’s pretty hefty. Aibo will cost 198,000 JPY ($1,735), but here’s the kicker. To use Aibo’s AI capabilities, you need to subscribe to its cloud service for 2,980 JPY ($26) per month or $790 if you pay up-front for the full three years. Aibo will initially be available only in Japan, where pre-orders are available starting today and shipping starts in January 2018.