Technology advancement is no longer a dream but a reality. This means that anything is possible with technology with ideas that become reality. In a bid to get along with the next level of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Sony stormed the tech-world with its refreshed Aibo robot dog in the US.
The new gadget will be able to use sophisticated cameras and sensors to map your house, so it can easily move around and go to its charging station on its own. It will also recognize up to 100 faces and remember past interactions with people.
But those new features won’t come cheap: a bundle package for the robot dog will cost $2,899. Presales start in September, with deliveries in time for the holidays. The new dog will be on exhibit to the US public in one place only before it goes on sale: At Sony Square in Manhattan from Friday to October 14.
Sony’s Aibo is among a growing trend of nostalgia tech, with many companies breathing new life into decades-old devices. Their hope is to invite back old customers and generate new money from those discontinued products. Nintendo has been particularly successful at dusting off and repackaging its old intellectual property by creating mini versions of its former consoles, such as the NES Classic Edition. Nokia, too, has reintroduced its 3310 feature phone and once-popular banana phone, but both have resulted more in buzz than sales.
Following these retro-tech efforts, Sony brought back the Aibo in Japan this January, more than a decade after it stopped selling the robot dog in 2006. That Aibo met its demise during Sony’s leaner years, as the company pruned its less successful projects. The Aibo’s revival comes as Sony has been enjoying an upswing in its business, with profits rebounding thanks to strong PlayStation sales.
The robot dog proved to have a small but surprisingly loyal fanbase. After Sony stopped maintenance services for the dogs in 2014, many Aibo owners spent hundreds of dollars on repairs to keep their dogs up and running.
While that group of Aibo boosters is sure to generate plenty of excitement for the new dog, Aibo remains a pricey robot companion that serves a little practical function. The original dog, which first went on sale in 1999, sold for $600 to $2,000, while the new dog is priced in Japan at $1,760. That steep price should keep the Aibo a niche product. Overall, 150,000 original Aibos sold during seven years of sales. Despite the high price, the new dog appears to be tapping into pent-up demand, with over 20,000 Aibos sold in Japan since its January.
The original Aibo offered a way for Sony to showcase some of its latest technologies, including its proprietary operating system and advanced robotics. Over the years, the dogs became more sophisticated, with the Aibo able to take pictures using cameras behind its eyes, play music and speak 1,000 words.
The new dog serves a similar purpose, with the new model replacing Aibo’s previously boxy appearance with a more rounded shape. The dog now includes 4,000 parts, 22 actuators, OLED-screen eyes, the same kinds of artificial intelligence used for self-driving cars and sensors that allow it to move around. Using all these features, Aibo can more accurately mimic a real dog’s actions, bark and responds to touch when pet on its head, back and under its chin.
The new dog will be able to use your home Wi-Fi or wireless connection through AT&T. Sony also partnered with Amazon Web Services to power the dog’s cloud-based artificial intelligence functions. Using the Aibo app, you’ll be able to label the map the dog creates, so it knows which room is the kitchen or living room. The app can also be used for voice commands or give you a video feed from the dog’s camera, so you could potentially use it as a watchdog.
The Aibo helped inspire the creation of many cheaper copycat robot pets, but the market for these companions remains small. Twelve years after Aibo was first discontinued, one of the few popular devices that can be described as a home robot is iRobot’s Roomba, which is an automated vacuum cleaner, not a robot-buddy.
Amazon is rumoured to be developing a home robot, but its functions are still unknown. SoftBank Robotics created a humanoid robot called Pepper, but it’s only available in Japan and targeted for businesses and research. With robots’ high prices and limited functions, it appears a future that includes an Aibo in every home remains an unlikely one.