Following last month’s news that it would soon return, Aibo, the robot dog Sony first introduced in 1999, is now available for pre-ordering in Japan. Tech advancements mean the new model is very different from its predecessor, which went out of production over ten years ago, but one thing that has remained the same is its high price.
Aibo now features LED eyes that give it “sparkle with a clever twinkle.” It also moves more naturally than the earlier models, which were pretty stiff and lumbering. Sony developed ultra-compact single- and dual-axis actuators that give Aibo “hundreds” of different movements and gestures, making it appear more dog-like.
The robot's AI capabilities allow it to learn and recognize different people’s faces. It can also identify the position of objects in a room and remember to avoid them.
Being a thoroughly modern device, Aibo can be controlled by a user’s voice and is cloud-connected. Battery life is said to be around 2 hours, and it takes 3 hours to charge fully. Somewhat strangely, Sony designed Aibo to “love anything pink” and be afraid of heights and tight spaces.
"Aibo keeps records of everything it experiences in day-to-day life, uploads the data to the cloud, and creates a database of memories that you can browse with the My Aibo app," Sony wrote on its site. "You can even ask Aibo to take a picture -- and you'll be able to preserve that moment for posterity.” Let’s hope Aibo doesn’t suffer from the same vulnerabilities as some other other connected toys.
"Aibo's AI learns from interactions with its owners and develops a unique personality over time. Further, with its owner's permission, Aibo can collect data from these interactions, then connect to the cloud and access the knowledge accumulated from interactions between different owners and their Aibo to become even more clever."
All this comes at a price, of course. Aibo costs $1740 but owners will also need to subscribe to the cloud subscription service, which is around $26 per month, or $790 for a three-year basic subscription. There are various support packages available, too, ranging from $175 to $473. And for $26 you get a plastic bone accessory.
Despite the high price, Sony expects sales to exceed the original Aibo’s 150,000 units. It will start shipping in Japan on January 11. There are currently no plans to expand availability overseas, but that could eventually change.