Sony announced today that it’s going to release its robot dog Aibo in the US, following the brand’s relaunch in Japan last year. The new edition will be available to purchase in September for $2,899 and will be bundled with three years of Sony’s AI Cloud service as well as a variety of toys, including a pink ball, an “Aibone,” paw pads, and a charging station. The AI Cloud allows Aibo to send its daily activity back to Sony’s servers, which the company claims help shape the robot’s personality and let owners stay connected with their Aibo over Wi-Fi or LTE through AT&T. The dog likely won’t ship until closer to the holidays, however, so prepare for a long wait.
The US version doesn’t sound or look much different from the one Sony showed off at CES this year. It incorporates a bunch of sensors, cameras, and actuators to activate the pup and keep it interactive. There’s a camera on its back to help it navigate to its charging pad, and its nose camera helps it find its Aibone and identify family members through facial recognition. It also responds to voice commands, and you can add tricks to its knowledge base through the companion Android / iOS Aibo app.
This is a limited edition product, although Sony hasn’t said exactly how many units are being made. So if you’re dead set on owning a robot dog, be ready for that preorder link soon.
Sony isn’t the only company thinking about a smart companion. Anki’s Vector robot (a grown-up version of its predecessor Cozmo) was just announced, too, with the idea that users can treat it more like a pet or play games and ask it questions. The key difference between it and Aibo is the price tag: Vector costs $250, although it doesn’t have the same AI backend as Sony and acts more similarly to a smart speaker.
Many tech companies are thinking of ways to make robots with personality, but so far, only Anki has seen any real success with a product in this category. It sold 1.5 million robots, of which “hundreds of thousands” are the Cozmo, while Sony has sold roughly 11,000 units of its pricey Aibo in Japan since CES.