SONY's AIBO robotic pet dog is returning to store shelves but Rover's return won't come cheap since SONY requires owners to subscribe to a pricey cloud back-up service.
It's been over a decade since SONY's popular AIBO robotic pet dog was banished to the robo-pound and technology has advanced mightily since then. You might think the soon-to-be-reintroduced, reincarnated and reconstituted AIBO now available for pre-order (and shipped from January of 2018) reflects those advances and you'd be right. AIBO redux features OLED display eyes that convey expression, embodies 22 body axes o facilitate fluid movement, and incorporates miniaturized fish-eye cameras that can “see and recognize” different human faces. But wait, there's more!
SONY wants, insists actually, that AIBO owners get the most out of their techno-pooch not just today but in the weeks, months and years to come. It accomplishes this via a new subscription service AIBO owners are obliged to purchase. The service allows owners to connect to the "My AIBO" app, back-up their AIBO to the cloud, and download regular updates to AIBO's software. An additional feature SONY plans to roll out in the near future will allow owners to transfer their AIBO's cloud back-up to a new model.
Naturally, all this wonderful stuff comes at a cost... better sit down for this if you aren't already. The new AIBO stickers at 198,000 yen or about $1,700 but not so fast: remember that required subscription service we mentioned? Yeah, figure on ponying up another 90,000 yen ($795) covering the next three years. If that's too dear, buyers can opt to pay monthly instead – three years at 2,980 yen ($26.50) per month.
Umm, keep that wallet open, SONY's not done yet. So-called “committed” owners can purchase support care – one might call it a warranty of sorts – for a mere 54,000 yen ($475) for three years or 20,000 yen ($175) for one year. This provides a 50% discount on repairs whether your AIBO needs them or not. Last but not least, you simply MUST purchase an optional accessory "AIBONE" for 2,980 yen ($26.50) or risk being deemed some sort of monster. Seriously, AIBO can fetch and return the AIBONE so just get it, OK? End result: your new AIBO will cost you as much as $3,000 paid up front.
On the plus side, AIBO definitely delivers a bang for all those bucks. The clever cyber-canine features pressure and capacitive sensors, LTE and WiFi connection, and a sophisticated motion sensor. All this and more, packaged inside a more dog-like “skin” that in total weighs about 2.2kg (almost 5 lbs.). One non-cost caveat could be battery life, however, as the AIBO remains active for just two hours before needing a full charge that takes three hours. Hmm.
In any case, SONY makes no bones about the value inherent not just in AIBO itself but the entire high-tech-enabled experience of owning one. Actual flesh & blood pets induce a sense of satisfaction in their owners, as will AIBO. “Slowly but surely, AIBO will also become more aware of its environment,” states SONY. “As it gains confidence it will learn to walk around an increasingly wider area and respond to situations accordingly.” The AIBONE “spices up your life with AIBO” and who doesn't like a little spice in their life? Nobody, that's who, so here's hoping SONY expands AIBO's availability to rest of the world beyond Japan. (via IBTimes and The Verge, thanks to Lady Bee for the tip!)