Throw us a bone! Sony is bringing its robot dog to the United States, but it won’t come cheap. The all-new Aibo, first unveiled at CES in January, will land in the coming weeks for $2,899.
Yep, you’ll need to pony up $3,000 for the “first litter edition” of the robot dog. It’s a significant price to pay for a robot companion, but after checking it out in person, I have to say this thing is adorable.
For the price, you get Aibo, a three-year cloud plan, dog toys, and a commemorative dog tag. That cloud plan includes three years of AT&T LTE for network connectivity when you’re out and about, which is nice given the high price.
At a launch event in NYC, Sony was quick to note that Aibo is loaded with technology. It combines robotics, AI, and sensor technology into one product. For this version of the Aibo (technically the sixth generation, although the others have long been discontinued), and Sony updated the eyes with OLED screens. That lets Aibo blink, and users can customize the color via the My Aibo app. The app will also allow you to view photos that Aibo takes via its nose camera, send commands, and see the environment as mapped through the sensors.
For the exterior, there’s only one look: Aibo will only be available in this silver and white, and, no, it doesn’t have any fur.
The tech goes beyond the eyes with several touch sensors, including one on the nose and the back. It also has a camera on the nose and the butt, along with several other sensors throughout the body. These work together show Aibo can learn and map the environment and avoid obstacles.
With the camera on its nose, he or she (you can customize the gender) can learn the people of the household and recognize you. Through these interactions with humans, Aibo will learn and get smarter every day. For instance, you can teach him a trick like to shake hands or give a high five. However, just like with training a puppy, you have to give Aibo positive reinforcement.
Aibo won’t always listen, especially in the beginning — so if a voice command doesn’t work the first time, try it again. During a quick demo, it took a few tries to get Aibo to play dead; instead, he barked or didn’t move.
In addition to sensors and hardware inside, the design of Aibo is meant to have him move realistically. Seeing him shuffle across a table, Aibo doesn’t doesn’t move how you’d expect an animatronic robot to move — it moves more in a cute way. This is thanks to the many single- and dual-axis joints all over the robot.
However, while Aibo can walk like a real dog, it can only do so indoors. Sony doesn’t recommend using it outside on grass, dirt, and especially water. You might be able to get away with him on clean pavement, though.
The battery life is a letdown as a full charge only lasts two hours — not the same play time and enjoyment you get from a real dog. Aibo will navigate to his charging dock by himself, but expect the charging time to be around two hours as well.
All in all, Sony is echoing similar tones to robotics as Anki is with Vector. There is a core belief in personality and being a companion, something that Aibo can achieve thanks to software, AI, and the hardware. After all, you wouldn’t let a robot dog into your house if it didn’t want to play and be nice. While I am eager to put Aibo to the test, the fact is that he is really expensive.
I don’t see this as a product for the masses, and Sony isn’t really pushing Aibo as a personal companion. There aren’t many utility features included, and while he does connect to the cloud through WiFi or LTE, it seems like that is mostly for learning and storing visuals. Chances are Aibo will speak to what Sony can do and that the future and the company’s future AI products, including robots.
If you want to add a robot dog to your home, Aibo won’t disappoint but be sure you can handle a $2,899 price. Also, I should mention you can get a real dog for cheaper, but this one doesn’t require cleanup.