Sony Aibo is an adorable, artificially intelligent puppy for everyone

Sony Aibo

The Aibo by Sony has been revived in time for CES 2018, and it’s quite a return – but not necessarily in the way you might think.

You see, this version of the Sony Aibo has far more artificial intelligence (AI) and sensors baked into it than the previous model, so much so that Sony has angled it around simulating an untrained dog. The new hook around Aibo is that you will have to train it through voice commands and positive reinforcement, just like you do a real dog.

Aibo uses a series of sensors and cameras to understand both its environment and your interactions with it, as well as to interact with two accessories: a pink ball and chew toy to play with.

For those keeping score, that’s three touch sensors (one on the back, one on the top of the head and another under the chin), two cameras (front for image recognition, rear for simultaneous localization and mapping), one Time of Flight (ToF) sensor for proximity detection, an illuminance sensor to sense your presence from behind, four microphones and a motion detector.

Sony says all of that, within an adorable, Rankin and Bass-looking design, will cost less than $2,000 in the US when it launches later this year, FCC approvals permitting. At the moment the Aibo is only available in Japan, where it costs 198,000 Yen (about $1,770 / £1,300 / AU$2,250). That's mighty expensive – but so are most pure-bred puppies, and this one won’t destroy your house.

Sony Aibo

How’s it work?

While we weren’t personally able to interact with an Aibo on the CES show floor, we witnessed it in action from behind a protective wire. The robot responds to commands, like “sit” and “speak” (and with adorable little motions and sounds) with varying accuracy depending on how well it’s been trained.

Plus, Aibo will respond to commands and touch interaction differently depending upon who it's interacting with, with the ability to ‘remember’ up to five different people at a time. All of this will be managed by a ‘My Aibo’ app launching January 11.

The speed at which it responds to commands also depends on how well it's been trained, which was clear judging by the demo we witnessed. Aibo was a bit slow to respond to its trainers’ commands, but managed to do so within a few seconds.

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What Aibo was even more responsive to were displays of affection, like petting and reassuring language. Its face is full of expression and will undoubtedly illicit the ‘awww’ response in you. (Those OLED displays for eyes certainly do the trick.)

However, we wish the 3-axis gyroscope and 3-axis accelerator worked perhaps even faster with the ultra-compact 1- and 2-axis actuators to simulate more realistic movement. Regardless, this thing can get around, and the motions and poses it can achieve only work to improve its cute factor.

One possible downside is that the Aibo is promised to last two hours on a charge and take three hours to fully recharge, so don’t expect Aibo to be at attention at all times.

Sony doesn’t yet know when the Aibo will be more widely available, but simply promises to aim for this year and for less than $2,000 in the US. While it’s easy to see the Aibo’s potential as a companion for the elderly or disabled, Sony primarily wants to see families purchase its advanced pup bot. Stay tuned for our full review to see whether you should look to Aibo before heading to the pet store.

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