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Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 11:14 GMT
Sony upgrades robot pet
New Aibo (left) and original Aibo (right)
The new Aibo (left) has movable ears, an in-built calendar and clock
Japanese electronics company Sony Corp has smartened up its ground-breaking cyber pet Aibo, announcing a new version which understands human speech and takes photographs.

Last year Sony released the original Aibo, capable of 250 movements and basic interaction.

It sold 3,000 within 20 minutes of going on sale despite a price tag of about $2,500.


Sony Chairman Nobuyuki Idei with Aibo
Sony's chairman sees Aibo as a serious business
Since then the appearance of similar toys with "emotions" and "nervous systems" has created a growth industry.

Big business

A new price of $1,500 for Aibo suggests that Sony is taking the pet robot business seriously.

The corporation said it was ready to handle 60,000 orders a month for the new version, which goes on sale in November.

It has set up a new company, Entertainment Robot Company, to help develop the consumer market for Aibo-type machines.

"We see ourselves as pioneering a new market in a fashion similar to what we did with the Walkman in the 1980s," company president Satoshi Amagai said.

Lion cub

The original Aibo was challenged by pets like Sega Corp's Poo-chi dog and Omron's Tama cat.

And it came under criticism for failing to understand what its owners said.


Omron's Tama
Omron's Tama was said to be more real than Aibo
The new Aibo has more touch sensors and is capable of "intimate interaction", its makers say.

It also understands 50 words and can imitate human intonation.

Owners can now also programme its movements via a $500 software package.

And to escape from its original "dog" image, the new Aibo is based on a lion cub, with pointed ears and a stump of a tail.

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See also:

14 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Sony bitten by Bluetooth
16 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
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22 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Robo-cat makes purrfect companion
11 May 99 | Sci/Tech
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