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It unveiled its Xperia Hello! voice-activated communication robot in October and on Wednesday said it was reviving its robotic dog Aibo that went on sale in 1999. Unlike past versions, it has "eyes" (two small screens capable of showing diverse and nuanced expressions), a rounded appearance and a mouth that tilts up in a smile.

"It was a hard decision to stop the project in 2006, but we continued development in AI and robotics", Kazuo Hirai, Sony's chief executive officer, said in a news briefing.

Aibo will be released in Japan in January 2018 with a price of JPY198,000 ($1,738).

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai said at a press conference that Aibo was being reintroduced to "connect with the family and give them joy". It is billed as a pet that behaves like a real dog, except it uses AI, not canine instinct, to learn and interact with its owner and surroundings. It will also be web-enabled, to support more complex cloud-driven capabilities. 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.

The original was advanced for its time, responding to commands and meant to recognise its owners.

As it's 2017, the Aibo will come with a dedicated smartphone app, which will allow owners to adjust the settings of their robot dog and get additional tricks for it to perform from the "Aibo Store", as well as view any photos the dog's cameras may have taken. It can also remember which actions pleases its owner. Sony hasn't announced a launch date for the US market yet.

The gadget is a reminder of Sony's pioneering past in robotics and artificial intelligence. AI start-up focusing on technology that allows machines to learn continually and autonomously from interaction in the real world. The firm also established a venture capital fund to build partnerships with AI start ups and robotics as well as researchers.


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