The Japanese giant showed off its next-generation robot dog “Aibo” at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, marking the first time it’s been shown outside of Japan. Undeniably cute, the plastic puppy is able to understand hand gestures and voice commands, like sit, shake, and fetch. At least, it’s supposed to. A demo at CES proved Aibo needs more visits to the dog trainer before it’s ready for primetime.
“Get the bone, Aibo,” one Sony rep desperately plead to the small robot sitting a few feet away. It didn’t budge. “Go get the bone.” Nothing. After a few tries, the poor rep started to pet the dog’s back. It reacted by wagging its tail but looked no more interested in the toy. After trying everything short of slathering peanut butter on the bone, another dog appeared. Again, it wasn’t interested in these strange human games. At one point, dog A stood up, stretched, and then started barking. Yes, even a robot puppy does what it wants.
Obviously, this wasn’t a good sign for any heartless grinch hoping to replace their drooling, misbehaving dog with one that will follow commands without hesitation. But there were some signs of life during the failed demo. Aibo had no problems raising its OLED puppy eyes to its owner when they spoke. It even adorably lifted its head up and down and perked up its ears. All this made the dog feel surprisingly lifelike, perhaps even placing it in so-called “uncanny valley” territory.
Aibo isn’t just about being cute. It has a camera inside its nose so it can act as a guard dog when you’re away. It also has a quad-core CPU, LTE compatibility, and built-in WiFi. Made of 22 different parts, the dog can yip and yap using integrated speakers and its four microphones are designed to recognize human voices.
But it will struggle to justify its insane 198,000 JPY price ($1,725) and additional $26/month service charge (think of it as a dog food fee) if it can’t perform core functions. Still, in the words of WeRateDogs, all dogs are good dogs—even robot ones. 12/10.
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