Sony revives discontinued robo-dog | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 01.11.2017
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Business

Sony revives discontinued robo-dog

Japanese conglomerate Sony has brought back Aibo, its iconic mechanical dog. But this time the pup is not just cute and cuddly, it is also loaded with improved artificial intelligence making it more dog-like.

Japan's Sony Corp announced on Wednesday it had brought back Aibo more than a decade since it last made the robotic dog. The report comes one day after Sony confirmed its resurgence by forecasting its highest-ever profit this financial year, sending its shares up to a nine-year high.

"AIBO" is an acronym for "Artificial Intelligence Robot" but is also similar to the word pal or partner in Japanese. Sony's Aibo is billed as an "entertainment robot" that behaves like a real dog using artificial intelligence (AI) and is another homage to the past. It can learn and interact with its owner and surroundings. Its upgraded equipment also has new sensing and movement technologies allowing it to move more smoothly and naturally.

Sales are set to begin in Japan in January, though preorders are already being taken. Priced at 198,000 yen (1,500 euros, $1,700) anyone can take one home if they agree to the additional monthly fee for cloud-based services which will allow updates.

The tail wagging the dog

Sony pioneered such entertainment robots with its original Aibo in 1999. It sold about 150,000 of the models in Japan before ceasing production seven years later in 2006 when its core consumer electronics business struggled in price wars with emerging Asian rivals. In July 2014, the company stopped providing repairs and customer service for Aibo products altogether.

"It was a difficult decision to stop the project in 2006, but we continued development in AI and robotics," Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai said at a news briefing.

Like many other tech firms, Sony sees artificial intelligence as a major force for future growth and a way to rebuild its reputation for innovation after years of restructuring.

The company also invested an undisclosed sum last year in Cogitai, an American AI startup focusing on technology that allows machines to learn continually and autonomously from interactions in the real world.

Additionally, the Japanese conglomerate has established a venture capital fund to build partnerships with researchers and startup companies in artificial intelligence and robotics.

tr/hg (Reuters, dpa)

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