In order to gain further market share in the household robotics space, Sony is teaching an old dog new tricks.
The company announced at a press event in New York City today that it’s bringing Aibo, it’s consumer robotic dog, back to the U.S. for a limited order — what the company is calling a “First Litter edition.” Presales start in September, and units will be delivered over the holidays. The price includes accessories, such as toys for Aibo, and a three-year “AI cloud plan” to upload photos and videos to the cloud.
Sony first released Aibo in 1999, discontinued it in 2006, and then announced in October 2017 that it was bringing a new model back to Japan. Since January, over 20,000 units have sold in Japan.
The new-and-improved Aibo comes equipped with a more nimble range of motion and capacitive touch sensors on its back, head, and chin to give it the same playful moves as a puppy. Two OLED displays give the appearance of blinking and closing Aibo‘s “eyes.” Built-in sensors help the pup detect sounds and images, and it can recognize up to 100 faces. The sensor data helps Aibo learn how to respond to people over time — for example, it’s more likely to seek out people who smile at it. Aibo will also proactively go to its charging station when its battery is running low.
Aibo is launching with a handful of commands, including the typical “sit,” “stay,” and “come.” Aibo also has a “mimic” mode so you can teach your dog custom tricks by demonstrating a certain movement. Owners can control Aibo through voice command or the Aibo app. Within the app, owners can name certain rooms in the household so they can tell Aibo “Go to the kitchen,” for example. Owners can also personalize their Aibo’s eye color and gender.
“Bringing Aibo back to the U.S. reflects Sony’s broader commitment to provide consumers with products that not only entertain them, but also enrich their lives,” Sony electronics North America president and chief operating officer Mike Fasulo said in a press release.
“[With] Sony’s [current] commitment to robotics and AI, it just makes sense to bring Aibo back — it’s such an iconic product from Sony, and it’s already been beloved in the U.S.,” Michiko Araki, the vice president for Sony electronics’ new business group told VentureBeat.
At a whopping $2,899, Aibo will cost $2,000 more than other hefty companion robots that have tried to gain traction in the U.S. recently, including Jibo — which started offering preorders in October at $899, and the recently shuttered Kuri, which was making robots available for preorder at $700 before it shut down.
But can you really put a price on (robotic) puppy love?