On Thursday, Sony revealed its plans to reintroduce a new litter of Aibo robotic dogs to the United States market starting in September. The $2,899 electronic puppy will come retrofitted with artificial intelligence technology, which will be complimented by facial recognition capabilities and hyper-expressive OLED eyeballs.
These two features grant the robo-pups the ability to convey excitement when their owners walk through the door and make realistic sad-puppy eyes when they wants attention.
“Using facial recognition technology, Aibo can tell when you’re smiling,” says Izumi Kawanishi, head of Sony’s AI Robotics Business Group. “It can store the memories of up to 100 different faces using A.I. and it will change how it behaves depending on who it interacts with.”
By making use of the same tech that lets you unlock your smartphone with your face, Aibo can get to know you. This not only makes it situationally aware but also able to build a rapport with the people it plays or interacts with. If it operates as advertised, families should be able to notice a difference in how it reacts when different people walk into the room.
For example, if older folks just want it to look cute and sit so they can pet it, it will oblige. But if the children in the household want it to pull off a choreographed series of tricks, Aibo will get hyped and begin to roll over when they begin to play with it.
Sony also says that the mechanical pooch will be able to express more subtle emotions with its eyes, which are made of organic light-emitting diode — the same stuff that gives the iPhone X display its vibrant colors.
“It’s OLED eyes enable it to express emotions visually,” explained Kawanishi. “It can convey nuanced expressions like happiness, sadness, and even disobedience with just a glance.”
While details like this make this iteration of Aibo closer to an actual dog than its predecessors, it remains to be seen whether its features will make up for its whopping price tag.
Will this replace man’s best friend? Probably not. But now that it can allegedly react differently depending on who it sees, it could be more of a tempting purchase for the most passionate robot enthusiasts.