Comdex: Sony's dog woofs in GSM mode

Dog even falls over -- obviously beating Koreans

Bizarrest demo at Comdex? Sony showed what it described as a 'pet-type prototype' - a life-like mechanical dog which does virtually everything the genuine article does except poop. It does have a serious side too - since it could potentially call you up via an internal cellular phone and inform you the house is on fire. The dog is being as touted by Sony as the first of a breed of 'entertainment robots'. Its limbs are entirely modular so that the rear pair can be removed and replaced by wheels to give the animal an extra turn of speed, for example. The dog has been developed by Sony's D21 labs in Japan and is approximately 18 inches long and 12 inches high. The demonstration robot dogs (there were three on display) didn't bark but they did have tails which they wagged when their heads were petted (there are sensors in the head). On the technology side, the robots form part of Sony's Open-R' architecture and utilise the company's own operating system - Aperios. A Sony spokesperson said that a conscious decision had been made to use standard components wherever possible. So the dog sports two power sources - a lithium ion camcorder battery which powers the CPU for approximately one hour, while the internal motors run for around 30 minutes on standard Ni-Cad batteries. An important feature is its internal PCMCIA standard PC Card slot which in the current prototype was running the operating system from an 8Mb memory card. However, any PC Card peripheral could be used including one of the many GSM mobile phones on a card from the like of Motorola Communicate. The dog could detect a fire using its built-in colour tv camera or sense an intruder using an infra-red motion detector. The robot canine also has two (stereo) microphones so that it can respond to speech. One of its most impressive achievements was to pick itself up when it fell on its side and Sony claims that future owners will be able to teach an old dog new 'tricks'. Naturally no time scale for the release of a commercial product was given. ®

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