Sony revives pet AI project with updated AIBO robot dog
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[November 01, 2017]
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Sony
Corp said on Wednesday it has brought back AIBO more than a decade since
it last made the robotic dog, as the electronics and entertainment firm
seeks to rebuild its reputation for innovation after years of
The announcement comes a day after Sony confirmed its renaissance by
forecasting its highest-ever profit this financial year, sending its
shares surging to a nine-year high.
AIBO is billed as a pet that behaves like a real dog using artificial
intelligence (AI) to learn and interact with its owner and surroundings.
The upgrade sees AIBO equipped with new sensing and movement
technologies as well as far more advanced AI backed by cloud computing
to develop the dog's personality.
Sales begin in Japan in January for 198,000 yen ($1,739).
Sony pioneered entertainment robots with AIBO in 1999. It sold about
150,000 dogs in Japan before ceasing production seven years later when
its core consumer electronics business struggled in price wars with
emerging Asian rivals.
"It was a difficult decision to stop the project in 2006, but we
continued development in AI and robotics," Chief Executive Officer Kazuo
Hirai said at a news briefing.
"I asked our engineers a year and a half ago to develop (new) AIBO
because I strongly believe robots capable of building loving
relationships with people help realize Sony's mission (to inspire)."
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Sony Corp's entertainment robot "aibo" is pictured at its
demonstration in Tokyo, Japan November 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
The reborn AIBO features new actuator technology allowing it move more smoothly
and naturally like a real dog. With sensing and AI technologies, AIBO can run
toward its owner and detect smiles and words of praise, and can remember what
actions please the owner. Its eyes are made of organic light emitting diode (OLED)
displays making it capable of diverse expressions.
Sony said it aims to sell at least as many new AIBO as the original, without
giving a time frame. It also said it is considering overseas sales.
The firm sees AI as a future pillar of growth, hoping to catch up with major
technology companies such as Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google.
It invested an undisclosed sum last year in Cogitai, a U.S. AI start-up focusing
on technology that allows machines to learn continually and autonomously from
interaction in the real world. It also established a venture capital fund to
build partnerships with researchers and start-up companies in AI and robotics.
Earlier this year, Sony Education launched its first product, Koov, which aims
to teach children coding through building and programming robots using plastic
(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
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