One of the most famous commercial robotic companions of all time, Sony’s robotic Aibo dog, is getting an expensive comeback. But before dusting off the dog collar, make sure to check the price tag on that robotic doggy in the window, the one with the mechanical tail: $2,899.
The new Aibo, which has been selling in Japan since January 2018, is a bet that Sony has made enough improvements on its original creation, which was produced from 1999 through 2004. Having sold around 20,000 units in Japan, the goal is now to sell “thousands” in the States, says Sony North America President and COO Mike Fasulo speaking to TechCrunch.
“It shows our capability of innovation,” Fasulo says. “There’s 4,000 parts in this product. Its eyes are made of OLED, which makes it adorable, but also makes it a great device for photo capturing. The core technology inside is built around our image sensors. It’s got 22 axes of movement and more flexibility than I’ve seen in a robot. It’s showing Sony’s innovation and commit to the future and probably a bit of branding along the way.”
Of course, the trick to robotic companionship isn’t just axes of movement and OLED eyes. There’s a matter of personality as well, which is highlighted on the Aibo’s website. There, Sony notes that while no two Aibos are alike, they all share some of the same traits, like an eager curiosity and a love of the color pink. There are also a fair number dislikes, specifically a fear of heights or tight places without a lot of room to explore.
Aibo ” gets a bit nervous when it’s up high or in a tight place—anxious enough to lose its trademark curiosity, in fact,” the robotic dog’s website warns.
But on the whole, a cared for Aibo can lead an existence based on growth and learning. Holding its hands can teach it new tricks, and owners can download their robotic dog’s memories onto a cloud-based app.
Aibo will be sold in America starting in September as a “First Litter Edition,” shipping with a three-year AI Cloud Plan, likely guaranteeing the robotic companion will have Sony support for at least that long.
But Aibo owners have been known to be more committed to their robots than the company itself. Owners of the original Aibo not only still maintain and care for their pets, but have entered a struggle with Sony, asking for a review of its policy of discontinuing repairs to their longtime robotic friends. If they’re not allowed access to the parts needed for repair, owners argue, it will result in their Aibos deaths.