Sony uses artificial intelligence to bring Aibo robot dog back to life

Sony has unveiled a new version of the robot dog it killed off over a decade ago –  and it now comes with artificial intelligence.

The tech brand announced this week that it will revive the Aibo robot dog, which was removed from shelves in 2006.

Unlike its previous incarnations, the new and improved Aibo will be equipped with the latest AI technology, allowing it to learn tricks, be aware of its surroundings, and develop a bond with its owner through facial and voice recognition.

Sony Aibo robot dog

These learned behaviours are stored in the cloud, and are constantly updated as the dog comes into contact with other Aibos and humans.

"Aibo's AI learns from interactions with its owners and develops a unique personality over time," said Sony.

"With its owners' permission, Aibo can collect data from these interactions, then connect to the cloud and access the knowledge accumulated from interactions between different owners and their Aibo to become even more clever."

Sony Aibo robot dog

As well as the AI update, the robot dog is now equipped with several other new features, designed to make it more realistic.

These include sensors that are able to detect different sounds and images, and fish-eye cameras that use geographical mapping technology to allow the dog to run to its owner when called.

The mechanics controlling the dog's eyes, ears and tail movements have also been improved to offer a range of "life-like expressions and a dynamic array of movements".

Sony Aibo robot dog

"Its body language is expressed through a combination of eye, ear and tail movements, as well as different voice sounds," said Sony.

"This lovable behaviour brings warmth and delight to the everyday lives of its owners," they continue.

Aibo, which translates from Japanese to mean "pal" or "partner", was first released in June 1999. Developed by researchers in Sony's computer science laboratory, it was one of the first robotic products available to the mass consumer market.

Sony Aibo robot dog

The first release was a huge hit and the dogs sold out in a matter of minutes. But the canine was discontinued just seven years later, and was even given a funeral by Sony engineer Toshitada Doi. This phenomenon was explored at the Vitra Design Musuem's Hello Robot exhibition earlier this year.

The decision to resurrect Aibo comes a year after Sony announced it would expand its AI ventures, after forming a partnership with AI start-up Cogita. The company's other recent tech developments include a projector that turns any surface into a touchscreen.

Images courtesy of Sony.