Sony's dog barking up right tree

Sony’s dog barking up right tree
Melanie Reynolds Sony’s new litter of robotic dogs has brought closer the day of human-robot coexistence. Called Aibo, the robot can walk, sit, stretch and play just like man’s best friend and has been designed to have what Sony calls a lovable shape and four highly agile legs. The artificial intelligence in the unit includes adaptive learning which enables the robotic dog’s personality to be shaped by interactions with people and its environment. In common with real lifeforms, the robot goes through four development stages from toddler to adult. Aibo expresses its emotions by using musical tones, eye colour and body language. For example, the eyes turn green if it is happy, but make it angry and they glow red. Other emotions shown include sadness, surprise, fear and dislike. Sony has also given the robot instincts which will drive it to seek companionship and also to feed, or rather, recharge its batteries. The dog’s touch sensors can recognise different tactile stimulation like being patted or hit. A microphone allows it to respond to sound which can be used to give it commands. A limited run of 5,000 dogs will be sold from June 1 exclusively on the Internet for $2,500 each. Robotic animals at a glancePredicting the future of computing at the Association of Computing Machinery’s 50th anniversary conference in March 1997, Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s chief technical officer, predicted computer systems “as smart as my dog in 15 year’s time”. Japanese researchers are working on an artificial cat’s brain. The project will build FPGA-based hardware to support 40 million artificial neurons. To date a software simulation of a kitten has been undertaken. The first robotic ‘sheep-dog’, the result of research between the Silsoe Research Institute, the University of Leeds and Oxford University’s Computing Laboratory, has already been pitted against a raft of ducks.

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