Sony back in the robotics game with new version of Aibo

Sony is bringing back its dog-robot Aibo after more than a decade.
Written by Tas Bindi, Contributor

Sony Aibo

Image: Sony

Japanese technology company Sony will return to the robotics field with a refreshed version of Aibo, a household robot resembling a dog.

The new version of the dog-robot -- originally launched in 1999 and halted in 2006 as part of Sony's cost-cutting and reorganisation efforts -- will be equipped with internet connectivity as well as artificial intelligence, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

The robot will be capable of controlling domestic appliances with a voice command, similar to using smart home devices provided by Amazon and Google, Nikkei has reported.

Sony revealed it would be returning to the robotics game in 2016 when it said it was working on robots that would "win people's hearts".

The company's president Kazuo Hirai said the aim is to offer new experiences for users by combining Sony's audiovisual and home entertainment technologies with the latest advances in robotics and artificial intelligence.

Toshimoto Mitomo, Sony's head of intellectual property, admitted in 2016 that the company is "deeply aware of how previous claims in AI have failed to pan out."

"As strategic investors, we believe that continual learning is the core of future AI," Mitomo added.

Dr Hiroaki Kitano, president and CEO of Sony Computer Science Laboratories, also said at the time that the company is "lagging behind" other tech giants that have started investing in AI, such as Facebook and Google.

"But there are still unexplored areas -- some in cyberspace but vastly more in the physical world," Kitano said. "And we have a number of products in the physical world. We make hardware. That's our strength."

Aibo was considered by some as years ahead of anything in the robotics field, with the robot-dog able to "see", "hear", and "react" to its surroundings based on a programmed personality.

Others thought it was more of a clever implementation of existing technology than a groundbreaking new effort. The original Aibo contained 18 motors, along with a relatively sophisticated processor, off-the-shelf sensors, and some clever programming, though it wasn't considered that much more complex than some of the robots built out of Lego's Mindstorm robotic development kit, which were sold for about 10 percent the price of Aibo.

While Aibo was sold out in Japan 20 minutes after going on sale exclusively online in 1999, the robot -- which cost around $2,000 -- was considered too expensive for most consumers at the time.

With AAP

Editorial standards