Sony’s newest push into robotics is a dog. And while it’s primarily intended to be a toy, it has the makings of an adorable pet and the artificial intelligence capabilities of a bot. So all in all, Sony’s pet dog “Aibo” is a toy, a pet and a robot in one. 

By introducing Aibo at CES 2018, Sony resurrected the robot dog line that was all the rage back in the late ’90s to early 2000s. The mutt-looking gadget absolutely stands out among the products and inventions showcased at the Las Vegas trade show for all the right reasons. It reminds attendees of how the tech industry has strayed from promoting the simple joys of life. 

Aibo is an ivory-white puppy that’s 30-cm (1-ft) long. It has OLED puppy eyes that are capable of displaying a range of emotions and black ears that flap depending on its mood. There’s a camera on its nose that gives the bot the ability to identify family members and locate its non-edible bone called Aibone. The robot puppy also has touch sensors on its back, chin and head, so it can recognize when someone is petting it, according to The Verge

Given all of the advanced technologies that Sony packed into Aibo, it’s not surprising how it can easily attract attention and entertain whosoever lays eyes on it. The hound-like machine is receptive to voice commands and it is very playful as well. The downside is Aibo only delivers two hours of playtime and it actually takes three hours to charge its battery. 

Aibo is designed in a way that it can build up a “character” through its different interactions with people. Its AI has been conditioned to be very friendly to people who are showing it kindness. However, Sony also saw to it that just like real dogs, Aibo won’t always be submissive to people, as pointed out by Phys.org

Aibo’s machine learning works in a similar fashion as most AI devices available in the market do. The robot dog “learns” things based on what it sees and feels, then these learnings are stored as photos and data in the cloud. In the long run, Aibo will develop its own personality. Such character can then be preserved even if the robot’s hardware is damaged. 

Sony promises to bring more functionality to Aibo in the future. The company is also looking at ways to expand the use of Aibo than simply being a gadget of entertainment. “The technology we incorporated into Aibo — AI, robotics and that combination — in different form-factors can manifest itself in other robots that can be part of transportation, education, health care. So it has a lot of different applications beyond just being an entertainment dog,” Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai told Bloomberg TV

The sophisticated technologies and the beauty that is Aibo do not come cheap though. Sony is shipping its new robot dog in Japan starting next week, and it is selling the technologically advanced puppy for 198,000 yen or US$1,800. Aibo also requires a software service subscription that costs 2,980 yen or $27 a month.