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New dog, new tricks

October 11, 2017.

Aibo robot dogs.

Aibo robot dogs ERS-7M2, 2004. © Sony Corp.

5 generations of Aibo robot dogs.

5 generations of Aibo robot dogs. © Sony Corp.

Sony launched its original robot dog, Aibo, in 1999. It was lovable and was an immediate hit, especially in Japan, where 10 different models were available until 2005. But it wasn’t cheap. For example, the ERS-7 model, launched in 2003, cost US$1,600 (but still found 45,000 forever homes). Howard Stringer, CEO of Sony in 2006, canned the Aibo project as a diversification that was inconsistent with the company’s strategy. The 200-odd employees working on Aibo were reassigned to other projects, like the PlayStation or digital cameras. Today, sources indicate that Sony gathered the remaining Aibo engineers still at the company, including artificial intelligence expert Masahiro Fujita, to revive the domestic robot. Given technological progress since 2006, especially in AI, this new puppy promises to be downright savant, and we can’t wait to see it frolicking around.

IEEE Spectrum, “Sony bringing back Aibo team to develop new robot dog.”