Sony announced Thursday that it would relaunch its line of robotic puppers, collectively named Aibo, in the United States in September — but it won’t be cheap.
The “First Litter Edition” bundle will go on sale for $2,899. This will include a limited three-year A.I. cloud plan that, the Aibo app where you can track its growth, and an assortment of puppy toys.
The new version of the mechanical dog that was introduced in 1999 is smarter that the original in that it’s capable of developing a personality using artificial intelligence, the company says.
Sony North America President and COO Mike Fasulo pulled a drop cloth off the animatronic canine in front of a gaggle of tech media in New York, as they learned Aibo is able to explore using its array of sensors, cameras, and cloud-connected A.I. tech.
“Aibo learns from its interactions with people, and makes memories that will change its behavior and personality as it goes on,” explained Fasulo as he caressed the android canine.
The four-legged computer can develop into a rambunctious Retriever or into a peace-loving Pug.
Upon purchasing and activating Aibo, it will explore and learn its new home just like a newborn puppy would. It maps its surrounding, learns where it can frolic, where it should stay away from, and can return to its charging station whenever it’s “hungry” for a charge.
From there it’s up to the owner to interact and play with Aibo to shape its personality. It’s capable of learning the basic batch of tricks that any good boy can pull off like sit, roll over, and play dead. But just like real dogs, sometimes Aibo won’t listen and will opt to explore instead of obeying a command from its owner.
“We’re not selling a virtual assistant,”s a Sony rep told me as they demonstrated the different ways people can pet and talk to Aibo. “It won’t always be paying attention to you just like a real puppy, especially when you first take out of the box.”
While this robot pooch might be new to the U.S. market, it has already made waves in Japan where 20,000 units flew off the selves in seven months.
The original Aibo launch in the late ‘90s was followed by several other iterations until the product was discontinued in 2006. It’s apparently a new dawn for Aibo. Will its new A.I. capabilities wow U.S. consumers or will it end up in the doghouse once again? We can’t be sure until it goes on sale. But it sure is cute.