Sony Revives AI Project with AIBO

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Sony's new Aibo dog is an ivorywhite puppy-sized, 30 centimetre hound with flapping black ears and a wagging tail. The robotic man's best friend is 180mm (7 inches) wide, 293mm (11 inches) tall, equipped with Organic Light Emitting Diode lamps (OLED) in its eyes, and runs for about two hours after a full charge of three hours.

The new AIBO comes with new actuator technology that would allow the pet to move more smoothly and naturally like a real dog.

The new Aibo will be priced at 198,000 JPY (around $1,733), but buyers will also need to purchase a three-year subscription plan, priced at 90,000 JPY ($788), to use it. Pre-orders kick off today and the pup is slated to arrive on January 11.

The biggest change to aibo is that the new iteration will be more intelligent and proactively interact with its owner.

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The first version of the robotic pet dog debuted in 1999, and Sony stopped making them in 2006 as the company refocused its businesses. It sold about 150,000 dogs in Japan before ceasing production seven years later when its core consumer electronics business struggled in price wars with emerging Asian rivals.

"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.

While the new web-connected aibo employs AI, it's meant to be more of a companion or a pet toy, rather than a digital assistant such as Amazon's Echo or Google's Assistant. New models were released every year until 2005.

The company has pumped resources into the technology, teaming up with US firm Cogitai and launching a venture capital fund past year focused on investing in AI and robotics startups around the world. AI start up called Cogitai that focuses on technology allowing machines to learn autonomously and continually from interaction in the real world. But now, with tech giants marching into artificial intelligence, Sony has made a decision to get back in the game. Sony also established a venture capital fund to build partnerships with researchers and startup companies in AI and robotics.