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Sony’s Robot Dogs May Be About to Make a Smarter Comeback

October 24, 2017, 11:08 AM UTC

Remember Sony’s Aibo robot dog? The company sold around 150,000 of them between 1999 and 2006, when the line was killed off. Now it may soon be back, with a new place in the smart home.

The name remains uncertain but, according to a Wall Street Journal report, Sony (SNE) will next month unveil a new “dog-shaped pet robot” that could be used to control connected home appliances.

That would make it a competitor to “smart speaker” home assistants such as Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home, and Apple’s upcoming HomePod. But with legs.

According to the WSJ piece, Sony’s new “pet project” will be launched in the spring of next year, with “smoother movements and prompter responses” than the firm’s older robot dogs.

The price remains a mystery for now—the various Aibo models ranged between $600 and over $2,000. Sony recently launched a smart speaker called the Xperia Hello with a hefty $1,300 price-tag, so it’s unclear if the dog will remain within reach of regular people.

In terms of direct-ish rivals from robot-mad Japan, Toyota has an absurdly cute little fellow called the Kirobo Mini that costs around $350, while SoftBank’s much larger (and more useful) Pepper costs around $1,600—plus $360 a month in data and insurance fees. And Sharp’s bizarre Robohon smartphone-robot-thing costs around $1,750.

If Sony really wants to be a player again in this space, it might want to aim for somewhere in the middle of this range. And it does seem to want success—according to the WSJ piece, Sony has around 100 people working on its robotics projects.