Sony Revives AI Project with AIBO

Posted November 02, 2017

The company has created a new robotic dog - Aibo - which was unveiled in Tokyo on Wednesday. Sony's announcement came a day after it forecast record earnings, leading to a nine-year high in its share price.

The new version (which Sony is marketing as "aibo" instead of the prior "AIBO") comes equipped with a powerful computer chip, OLED displays for eyes and the ability to connect to mobile networks.

"It was a hard decision to stop the project in 2006, but we continued development in AI and robotics", chief executive Kazuo Hirai said at a news briefing. The Aibo will launch in Japan in January at around $1,750. Experts improved system for the transmission of emotions in the robot, whereby the electronic dog will behave just like a real puppy, rejoicing, fearing, and exploring the world around us. Sony said it aims to sell at least as many new AIBO as the original, without giving a time frame.

The "latest iteration of the beloved robotic companion" is built around a 64-bit quad-core brain, with deep learning technology seeing the aibo developing "its own unique personality through everyday interactions as it grows closer and closer to its owners". Owners can also sync "Aibo" with a smartphone application called "My Aibo", which allows them to play with the robot dog remotely. Sony developed ultra-compact single- and dual-axis actuators that give Aibo "hundreds" of different movements and gestures, making it appear more dog-like. With sensing and AI technologies, AIBO can run toward its owner and detect smiles and words of praise, and can remember what actions please the owner.

The company has pumped resources into the technology, teaming up with USA firm Cogitai and launching a venture capital fund a year ago focused on investing in AI and robotics startups around the world. But now, with tech giants marching into artificial intelligence, Sony has made a decision to get back in the game.

Sony's cutesy toy robot dog first appeared in 1999 before being, ahem, "sent to a farm" in 2006.