Aibo returns in Japan as a cloud-connected recording companion robot

A mandatory subscription from Sony to use your robot? The future has gone to the dogs.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

As foreshadowed in October, a new version of the Aibo robot dog is available for pre-ordering in Japan, with units to begin shipping on January 11.

Set to cost 198,000 yen, approximately $1,740 at the time of writing, owners will also need to purchase a three-year basic subscription for the one-time price of 90,000 yen, or 2,980 yen per month. Further to this, support packages are available for three years at 54,000 yen, or one year for 20,000 yen.

Paying for Aibo alongside an upfront payment for the subscription and support package could set owners back 342,000 yen, or $3,000.

Sony claims the new Aibo is able to learn from its environment, is "naturally" curious, is able to recognise voices, and can respond to physical contact.

"With a face full of life and expression, always drawing attention, Aibo conveys emotion intuitively," Sony said on its Aibo site.

Aibo has been programmed to like the colour pink, and to be nervous with heights and tight places. Sony has a pink bone toy available for 2,980 yen, of which the company only says: "A bone-shaped toy accessory that spices up your life with Aibo".

(Image: Sony)

Users will need to purchase a subscription package to use the "My Aibo" app, and to allow the robot to connect to the cloud.

"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 said on its site. "You can even ask Aibo to take a picture -- and you'll be able to preserve that moment for posterity.

"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."

The Japanese electronics giant said it developed ultra-compact single- and dual-axis actuators, which allows the Aibo to have 22 axes of movement, and its OLED eyes give the robot "diverse, nuanced expressions".

The new Aibo has two hours of battery life, and takes three hours to recharge.

The orignal Aibo sold out 20 minutes after going on sale in Japan in 1999.

Sony second quarter sees operating income triple

(Image: Sony)

The company also announced that it achieved a 22 percent increase in revenue to 2 trillion yen, and operating income increase of almost 350 percent to 204 billion yen, for the second quarter of the financial year compared to same time last year.

Broken down by division, the mobile communications arm posted a 2.5 billion yen loss from 172 billion yen in revenue; semiconductors was the most profitable division after gaming for the quarter, as it posted operating income of 49 billion yen from 228 billion yen in revenue.

For the first half of its fiscal year, semiconductors was the most profitable arm of the company, posting 105 billion yen in operating income from 433 billion yen in sales.

Bumping up its forecasts, the company expects to post 630 billion yen in operating income by the end of the year, which would be a 26 percent increase on the 289 billion yen in operating income for FY2016.

The company reduced the number of smartphones it expects to sell for the year to 15.5 million units, while selling more image sensors for smartphones has allowed the semiconductor unit to increase its sales forecast by 20 billion yen for the year.

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