Between the flooded booths and convention center blackouts, CES 2018 has been kind of a disaster. But for me, at least, one little gadget saved the whole thing by reminding me why the show exists in the first place. Sony is rolling back the years with Aibo, the resurrection of the robot dog line that was one of its most iconic brands during its ‘90s and 2000s heyday.
The new Aibo is quite simply adorable. It has touch sensors on its head, chin, and back so you can pet it. It responds to touch and voice, and 22 actuators enable more realistic movement than previous models. Its eyes are OLED panels. It has a camera on its nose to help it recognize family members and search for its bone — which is called Aibone — while a camera on its back helps it navigate to its charging station like a Roomba. (Aibo gets two hours of playtime and takes three hours to charge.)
Sony isn’t letting CES attendees touch Aibo, unfortunately, but I was able to talk to it and watch staff physically interact with it. By the end of my demo, I actually felt like Aibo was warming to me a little. Or maybe I was just getting better at figuring out how the voice commands worked. It was loud in there, after all. But still. Aibo is remarkably expressive, and it’s going to be hard for robot dog skeptics to resist its OLED puppy eyes.
Aibo watched me as I got up to leave, and I said to a Sony employee that I thought it might actually miss me. “You mean you’ll miss it,” he replied. Well, yeah.
Fortunately, Aibo is shipping in Japan next week. Unfortunately, it sells for 198,000 yen, or about $1,800, along with a subscription that costs 2,980 yen ($27) a month subscription or 90,000 yen ($800) for three years. But hey, time is money — and think of all the time you'll save not picking up poop.