Woman playing with the Sony aibo AI puppy

If Sony makes a robot dog behave adorably enough, would you buy it? The electronics company first introduced Aibo the dog in 1999 and the answer from consumers at that time was not quite a resounding yes. But after a decade having shelved the robot dog, Sony announced it plans to release a new version of Aibo with some major AI upgrades to kick its lovability factor up a notch.

The latest incarnation packs even more features into the artificial canine to gain the owner’s affection. It hears and understands words of praise and reacts accordingly. It uses deep learning technology to adapt its behavior to make owners happy. Its eyes are screens so it can project all kinds of emotions. It also comes stocked to the nine with tech features like the ability to take pictures, connect to mobile networks, and upload data to the cloud if you let it.

Sony claims the new Aibo – short for artificial intelligence robot – can “form an emotional bond with members of the household while providing them with love, affection, and the joy of nurturing and raising a companion.”

Sony Aibo AI-infused robot dog
Sony.net – The Aibo, an AI-infused robot dog

Aibo can boast being “the world’s first mass-market consumer robot for entertainment applications.” But we’re seeing plenty of other robots making their way into people’s homes – often with just as cute form factors to up their desirability. Cozmo, a pint-sized bulldozer look-alike, will play games with you at your desk. Meanwhile, the First Order Storm Trooper will alert you of intruders in your room.

But whether the idea of a robotic pet replacement sounds ingenious or somewhat unsettling, there’s no denying the move electronics companies are making toward infusing toys and gadgets with a whole lot of brains and personal charm. The lines are being blurred between the fuzzy canine companion who begs for belly rubs because it wants them and the plastic version programmed to do the same with just as much emotive expression.

As the field of AI continues to advance, we’re finding robots becoming much more versatile and able to not only serve utilitarian purposes but provide entertainment value as well. And it won’t be long after that when we crack the code on designing custom-tailored companionship.

Aibo goes on sale in Japan beginning January. It will retail for roughly $1700 (198,000 JPY) and requires a monthly subscription plan.

Kelly Paik
Kelly Paik writes about science and technology for Fanvive. When she's not catching up on the latest innovations, she uses her free-time painting and roaming to places with languages she can't speak. Because she rather enjoys fumbling through cities and picking things on the menu through a process of eeny meeny miny moe.