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Second Generation AIBO Boasts New Functions

December 25, 2000
Sony's new and enhanced robotic pet is made in the image of a lion cub. (Sony Corp.)

Sony Corp. has begun marketing the new version of its pet robot, AIBO. The company began accepting orders for the robot on November 16, 2000. From early December it will ship the products to buyers in the order that they applied. The first version of AIBO went on sale in June 1999 and, with sales limited to 3,000 units in Japan, sold out in just 20 minutes. Sony therefore decided to use a reservation system for sales of the second-generation robot and produce and sell just the number of units for which orders are received.

AIBOwners Await New Pet
One fan of the first-generation AIBO in the United States gave the name AIBOwner to proud owners of the pet robot on their homepage, and this new word immediately caught on among AIBO enthusiasts around the world. So with the second-generation AIBO set to increase the ranks of AIBOwners considerably, just what kind of pet is the new robot?

One particularly noticeable evolution from the first AIBO to the second is in its pet-like qualities. The first version was modeled after a dog and was able to act like a pet thanks to 18 small monitors installed in its plastic body, but its attraction always lay in somewhat basic behavior, such as becoming grumpy if smacked. The second version, meanwhile, is made in the image of a lion cub, features enriched patterns of autonomous behavior and emotional expression, and can understand and respond to about 50 words.

The robot responds to the name given to it by its owner, of course, and performs appropriate actions in response to such orders as "sit," "beg," and "forward." It remembers words spoken to it and can also say those same words back in the same tone in an electronically synthesized voice. Furthermore, if told to "take a photo" it uses a color camera in its eyes to take a picture of the scene in its line of sight. These photos are stored on a semi-conductor memory and can be viewed on a computer using special software.

Software Enhances New AIBO
The second-generation AIBO is also an actor that can perform a variety of roles. A few of these roles at a time are stored on small memory sticks as programs that order AIBO to behave in a certain way. Inserting the memory stick into the robot causes it to act out the appropriate role. Examples include a program that makes AIBO more sociable, "Party Mascot" software that makes it play "stone-scissors-paper" and other games, and a program that makes the pet celebrate its owner's birthday.

What will concern many people is the price of the pet robot. At 150,000 yen (1,500 dollars in the United States), the main body of the new AIBO is considerably cheaper than the first version, which cost 250,000 yen (2,500 dollars). Each piece of software to make AIBO perform different roles sells for about 9,000 yen (90 dollars).

*AIBO is a trademark of Sony Corporation.

Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.