Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai hold the company's new aibo robot at CES 2018 in Las Vegas. Alex Wong, Getty Images

CES 2018: Sony Planning a Whole Range of Robots After Its Aibo Dog

The $1,800 robot is programmed with artificial intelligence among other tech and, according to CEO Kazuo Hirai, can be more than “just an entertainment robot.”

The verdict is still out on Sony Corp.’s new pet dog ‘aibo,’ but that’s not stopping the company from planning a deeper push into robotics.

The mechanical mutt, which goes on sale in Japan on Thursday, is just the beginning of the Tokyo-based company’s return to robotics, CEO Kazuo Hirai told Bloomberg TV. While aibo is primarily a toy, its artificial-intelligence capabilities and robotic architecture can be used to create machines for various service fields, he said.

“The technology we incorporated into aibo — A.I., robotics, and that combination — in different form-factors can manifest itself in other robots that can be a part of transportation, education, health care,” Hirai said. “So it has a lot of different applications beyond just being an entertainment robot.”

Hirai ordered the push into robotics in 2016, a decade after Sony discontinued the original version of its robot dog — then called AIBO — which had gained a cult following in Japan. While the new aibo promises more functionality powered by advanced artificial intelligence, it has drawn criticism for lacking features offered by digital assistants such as Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa and Apple Inc.’s Siri.

Aibo costs 198,000 yen ($1,776) plus a monthly fee of 2,980 yen ($26.73). Amazon’s Echo speakers, which run Alexa, range from $50 to $230.

By Yuji Nakamura and Emily Chang

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