Another Year, Another AIBO

Sony have announced another upgrade to their AIBO entertainment robot series, with the focus shifting away from cute tricks to becoming useful part of a household entertainment system.

The new ERS-7M2/W (white) and ERS-7M2/B (black) have the same style of casing as the previous top of the range AIBOs, but with a new finish and upgraded software and hardware under the hood, as it were.

AIBOs nose camera can now shoot video, which Sony says makes it an effective house-sitter. Given that AIBO will probably be the first thing in the back of the van if the owner gets burgled, I’m not sure if the robot’s ability to email a video clip of the view under a robber’s armpit will be especially useful. Regular emails of sound- or motion-activated photographs from home whilst you’re on holiday might bring peace of mind to some though.

AIBO can also play music from his speakers whilst dancing too – and can creak along to WAV, WMA and even MP3. Little pirate. AIBO’s Scheduler is compatible with Microsoft Outlook, so now he can remind you of any important appointments you might have via its text-to-speech interface. “Get head seen to”, for example.

The robot’s software has been optimised for much faster reaction times to spoken commands, along with better face tracking and obstacle avoidance routines – making it appear more lifelike and responsive.

All this canine robot fun will cost you US$1900 (€1545), and existing AIBO users can upgrade to AIBO Mind 2 software for $99 (€80).

Check out new AIBO

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?