When Sony first released a cute robot dog back in 1999, the world went crazy for it. Though it wasn't a great leap to visualize a beagle-like pooch in the boxy form of the original aibo companion robot, subsequent models did at least smooth away some of the harsh lines to become more dog-like. But all good things must come to an end, so they say, and the bots were discontinued in 2006. Now Sony's bringing the aibo back, and it looks better than ever before. It's also quite a different beast to its playful ancestors.

The "latest iteration of the beloved robotic companion" is built around a 64-bit quad-core brain, with deep learning technology seeing the aibo developing "its own unique personality through everyday interactions as it grows closer and closer to its owners." The robodog is capable of facial recognition, can detect spoken words using four microphones, and react to being stroked and petted thanks to touch sensors on its back, head and jaw.

Once parents have granted permission, aibo can collect interaction data before uploading to the cloud over built-in LTE or Wi-Fi to accumulate in a knowledge base, allowing for a "bond that only deepens as time goes on."

Proprietary actuators allow smooth freedom of movement along 22 axes, meaning that head, mouth, neck, legs and paws, ears and tail can all move to the groove while OLED eyes offer "lifelike" expressiveness. The companion bot measures 180 x 293 x 305 mm (7 x 11.5 x 12 in) when standing and tips the scales at 2.2 kg (4.8 lb).

Two fish-eye cameras with room mapping capabilities also feature, along with a suite of sensors (including motion, light, pressure and distance), a built-in speaker for yappy sounds and a battery that's said to last for 2 hours before needing to return to its charging station for 3 hours.

Sony is planning to introduce a companion app to further enhance the aibo experience, as well as allowing smartphone access to system settings and owner information. And there'll also be a bone-shaped toy accessory available at release, too.

Sony's new aibo is up for pre-order in Japan today for ¥198,000 (about US$1,700), though a subscription plan will also be needed to fully utilize the robot dog – costing a further ¥2,980 per month (or ¥90,000 for 3 years).

Unfortunately, it won't be released in time for the holidays – it's due out on January 11, 2018 – and no plans for availability outside of Japan have been announced. You can see the robot cutey in the promo video below.

Product page: Sony aibo

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