“Weird Sony is back, and it recently announced a new version of the Sony Aibo, everyone’s favorite robotic toy dog! Sony has been out of the plastic pooch business for about 11 years, and the 2017 version is well-equipped for the smartphone era with LTE and an app. Sadly, like seemingly every Aibo ever, the pup is only for sale in Sony’s hometown of Japan, but we can still love it from afar.
The Aibo tries to replicate a real dog and doesn’t do much else. The new version has 22 axes of motion. The legs let it walk, shake hands, sit, play with a ball, scratch a digital itch, and do “hundreds” of other dog things. The tail wags, the ears move, the mouth opens, and the head turns and tilts, making it seem rather expressive in the videos.
Aibo is equipped with a “64-bit quad-core CPU,” touch sensors on the head, chin, and back for pet detection, a speaker for making dog noises, and four microphones for voice commands. Aibo has a pair of OLED puppy dog eyes, which it uses to blink and wink, but it actually “sees” via a nose camera and a SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) setup in the mouth.
Just like a real dog, owning the Aibo is pretty expensive. Adopting a purebred Aibo costs 179,000 yen (about $1,739 US) through Sony’s online store. And while you get to skip out on the daily kibble bill, you’ll apparently still need to feed your pup a steady diet of megabytes. Buying an Aibo commits you to paying for three years of an “Aibo basic plan” for about $26.15 a month (there’s also a “lump sum payment” option for about $789.75). This fee goes toward LTE access for the pup and access to Sony’s cloud infrastructure. The monthly fee is not only mandatory, but, if you don’t pay for the full three years, you’ll be subject to a cancellation fee of $86 plus $4.39 for each remaining month left in the contract.
I have so many questions about this monthly plan. Why does this have LTE? Are you supposed to take your robot dog for a walk? I would think the dirty outdoors would be pretty rough on all those joints and that an indoor-only, Wi-Fi-only use case would make more sense. Also Sony says the “Aibo basic plan” is limited to three years and never mentions what happens when the three years is over. When the plan is over does the dog… die? (This “real dog” analogy suddenly got very dark.)
Sony says Aibo “keeps on growing and changing, constantly updating its data in the cloud,” and promises that “over time, your approach to nurturing your Aibo will gradually shape its personality—it could be a doting partner, a wild, fun-loving companion, or anywhere in between.” The cloud service also gets you access to the “My Aibo” smartphone app, which lets you configure the dog, view pictures from the nose cam, play games, and download new “tricks” (apps) from an app store. With the SLAM system, the dog will eventually map out your house, avoid obstacles, and figure out the shortest distance from one location to another.
The Aibo comes with a toy ball, but you can also pay $26 extra for a toy bone called, of course, the “Aibone.” The new Aibo is up for preorder now in Japan and will be released January 11.”