The Aibo by Sony has been revived in time for CES 2018, and it’s quite a return. But, not necessarily in the way you think.
You see, this version of the Sony Aibo has far more artificial intelligence (AI) and sensors baked into it than the previous model, so much so that Sony has angled it around simulating an untrained dog. The new hook around Aibo is that you will have to train it through voice commands and positive reinforcement, just like you do a real dog.
Aibo uses a series of sensors and cameras to understand both its environment and your interactions with it, not to mention interact with two accessories: a pink ball and chew toy to play with.
For those keeping score, that’s three touch sensors (one on the back, the top of the head and under the chin), two cameras (front for image recognition; rear for simultaneous localization and mapping), one Time of Flight (ToF) sensor for proximity detection, an illuminance sensor to sense your presence from behind, four microphones and a motion detector.
All of that, within an adorable, Rankin and Bass-looking design, will cost less than $2,000 (about £1,479, AU$2,500) in the US when it launches later this year, FCC approvals permitting. That is mighty expensive, but so are most pure-bred puppies, and this one won’t destroy your house.
How’s it work?
While we weren’t personally able to interact with an Aibo on the CES show floor, we witnessed it in action from behind a protective wire. The robot responds to commands, like “sit” and “speak” (with adorable little motions and sounds, mind you) with varying accuracy depending on how well it’s been trained.
Plus, Aibo will respond to commands and touch interaction differently depending upon who’s interacting, with the ability to ‘remember’ up to five people (i.e. family members) at a time. (All of this will be managed by a ‘My Aibo’ app launching January 11.)
The speed at which it responds to commands also depends on how well it's been trained, which was clear judging by the demo we witnessed. Aibo was a bit slow to respond to its trainers’ commands, but managed them within a few seconds.
What Aibo was even more responsive to were displays of affection, like petting and reassuring language. Its face is full of expression and will undoubtedly illicit the ‘awww’ response in you. (Those OLED displays for eyes certainly do the trick.)
However, we wish the 3-axis gyroscope and 3-axis accelerator worked perhaps even faster with the ultra-compact 1- and 2-axis actuators to simulate more realistic movement. Regardless, this thing can get around, and the motions and poses it can achieve only work to improve its cute factor.
One possible downside is that the Aibo is promised to last two hours on a charge and take three hours to fully recharge, so don’t expect Aibo to be at attention at all times.
Sony doesn’t yet know when the Aibo will land in the west, but simply promises to aim for this year and for less than $2,000. While it’s easy to see the Aibo’s potential as a companion for the elderly or disabled, Sony wants to see families purchase this advanced pup bot primarily. So, stay tuned for a full review to see whether you should look to Aibo before the pet store.
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