Sony thinks the path to success is robot dogs

Good bot.
Good bot.
Image: AP Photo/Joerg Sarbach
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A long time ago, in the mythical time of the 1990s, when people still listened to CDs on a Walkman, and Trinitron TVs were all the rage, Sony was the king of the consumer electronics world.

Then a new century dawned, and the Japanese company struggled to keep up with the pace of innovation out of South Korea and China. It failed to convert its Walkman prescience into success in the smartphone market and, instead, sliced out much of its consumer electronics work into a separate company in 2015. Now it has reached back to the 1990s and pulled out a new, perhaps rejuvenating trick: robot pets.

A report in The Wall Street Journal (paywall) today suggests Sony will rekindle a project from the tail-end of its consumer products heyday. This spring, the company plans to release an updated version of the Aibo pet robot dog it produced from 1999 through 2005. The original robots could do many things that small dogs could do, including bark, walk around, play with a bone and speak Spanish. Most models cost well over $1,000 when they were released.

The new robots, which will not necessarily share the old Aibo branding, will act far more dog-like and will be able to respond to users’ commands, according to the Journal. They will also potentially feature an internet connection that will let them—unlike real dogs—learn new tricks as they age. No word yet on whether they will need to be fed or let out to poop. It’s unclear how much the new models will cost, but as the Journal points out, Sony did just recently release the Xperia Hello, a smart speaker with a small screen and a bobbling robot head, for $1,300. Sony wasn’t immediately available to comment on its robot plans.

Whether a new yapping robot will lead Sony back to glory is unclear, but hopefully it’ll spur more late-90s hits to think about a revival. We know that Tamagotchis are making a comeback too, so up next, I’m hoping for MiniDiscs, Pogs, and a Hootie and the Blowfish reunion tour.