The New Aibo Is $2,899 Worth of Adorable

Pets are fun, but they're a lot of work. Those who are daunted by all the feeding, walking, house training, and care that's involved with adopting a real dog may want to consider Sony's newest robotic dog, the Aibo.

We had a chance to check out this adorable pup, which will be available for pre-order in September 2018. 

Packed With Tech

The Aibo the size of a small puppy, and made of smooth gray, white, and black plastic. It has two bright, very expressive blue eyes (they're actually OLED screens). It moves naturally and very smoothly, without the jerks and noise that robotic joints often cause.

Underneath its cute exterior, however, this pup is packed with technology. Its nose contains a camera for image recognition, its mouth a time-of-flight sensor, which detects the dog's proximity to nearby objects. A motion sensor and ranging sensor live in its belly. There are touch sensors in its forehead, lower jaw, and the back of its neck, and a light sensor and simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) camera near the base of its tail. Four microphones live in its cheeks.

The Aibo is connected to an app called "My Aibo" for Android and iOS. The app allows you to issue commands and teach your dog new tricks. It's also where your pup will store any photos it takes with its camera, and will help you easily share them.

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Aibo's coolest feature is that it learns from its owners, and develops its behavior and personality over time. Various events, including changing seasons, can also influence its traits.

With its facial-recognition camera, Aibo learns to recognize its owners, and can seek them out in crowds (and bark at people it doesn't recognize). Aibos can also recognize each other, and may sniff or lay down next to each other if put close together, Sony told us.

You can choose your dog's gender the first time you turn it on (and you can't change it later). It seems unlikely this will impact anything besides the tone of the dog's "voice."

Aibo connects to your Wi-Fi network, but can also connect to LTE via AT&T.

A Good Boy

When I first approached the Aibo, it was barking excitedly at the crowd of strangers surrounding it. It calmed down after a good amount of stroking and scratching.

The device was clearly very content to be pet on its back and the back of its head, wagging its tail and laying down affectionately when I did so. What it loved the most, however, was when I scratched it under its chin -- it reached out to paw me in response.

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When I complimented the Aibo, it lay down and closed its eyes contentedly. When I told it to "Sit," it also lay down. Sony told me that, like a real puppy, a new Aibo will be disobedient at first. When I said "Bad dog," the Aibo blinked abashedly, bowing its head.

The one thing that seemed a bit odd was the lack of sensation in its limbs. When I stroked the Aibo's legs, or poked its paws, it didn't respond in any way, where a living dog certainly would have jumped back, or at least reacted.

It also didn't hear me when I called it from behind, which was another stark reminder that I was, in fact, playing with a machine.

Apart from these blips, however, the Aibo seemed quite real. Its excitement and sadness imitated those of a real dog very well.

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Where To Buy

Aibo has been available in Japan since January, and has sold more than 20,000 units. That may seem low, but this device costs a whopping $2,899. 

The dog's limited-edition first release, called the First Litter Edition bundle, will include an Aibo and a three-year AI Cloud Plan subscription. This will allow your Aibo to upload its memories to Sony's AI engine, which is powered by Amazon Web Services.

The Aibo also comes with a number of toys. The practical benefits of this luxury pet remain to be seen, but there's no doubt that it's an adorable robotic furry friend. Stay tuned for our full review.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Monica Chin is a writer at The Verge, covering computers. Previously, she was a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she wrote about everything from artificial intelligence to social media and the internet of things to. She had a particular focus on smart home, reviewing multiple devices. In her downtime, you can usually find her at poetry slams, attempting to exercise, or yelling at people on Twitter.