Japan’s Sony Corp said on Wednesday it’s brought back AIBO over a decade since it last made the robotic puppy, as the entertainment and electronics firm seeks to rebuild its reputation for innovation after years of restructuring.

Sony Corp's entertainment robot "aibo"
                                                                 Sony Corp’s entertainment robot “aibo”


The statement comes a day after Sony supported its renaissance by forecasting its highest-ever gain this financial year, sending its shares surging to some nine-year high. [nL4N1N62U8] [nL4N1N70NV]

AIBO is billed as a pet that behaves like a real dog using artificial intelligence (AI) to find out and socialize with its proprietor and environment. The upgrade sees AIBO armed with new sensing and movement technologies as well as far more advanced AI endorsed by cloud computing to come up with the dog’s personality.
Earnings begin in Japan in January for 198,000 yen ($1,739).

It sold about 150,000 puppies in Japan before ceasing production seven decades after when its core consumer electronics industry struggled in price wars with emerging Asian competitions.


                                             Kazuo Hirai, president and chief executive officer of Sony Corp

“It was a tricky decision to stop the job in 2006, but we continued development in AI and robotics,” Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai said at a news briefing.

“I asked our engineers per year and a half ago to grow (fresh) AIBO since I strongly believe robots capable of building loving relationships with people help realize Sony’s mission (to inspire).”

The reborn AIBO features new actuator technologies allowing it move more easily and naturally enjoy an actual dog. With sensing and AI technology, AIBO can conduct toward its owner and discover smiles and words of praise, and can remember what activities the owner. Its eyes are made from organic light emitting diode (OLED) screens making it capable of diverse expressions.

Sony said it intends to sell at least as numerous new AIBO since the first, without giving a time frame. It also said it’s considering overseas sales.

Sony Corp's President and Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai holds entertainment robot "aibo"
                 Sony Corp’s President and Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai holds entertainment robot “aibo”

The company sees AI as a potential pillar of growth, hoping to catch up with leading technology companies such as Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

It invested an undisclosed sum this past year in Cogitai, a U.S. AI start-up focusing on technology which enables machines to understand continually and autonomously from interaction in the actual world. Additionally, it established a venture capital fund to build partnerships with researchers and start-up companies in AI and robotics.

Earlier this year, Sony Education launched its first item, Koov, which aims to teach children coding through building and programming robots with plastic cubes.

($1 = 113.8600 yen)