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Sony's next gen Aibo dogs hit market

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Sony has showed off its third generation Aibo robotic dog. Canine V3 features more sensors for interaction, more LEDs for a wider emotional range, new behavioural patterns and upgraded control software.

Looking distinctly more robotic and a little less shiny than its second generation brothers, the ERS-220 is supposed to fill the gap in the market for adult users who want a more robotic looking and controllable toy, rather than a more doglike, um, dog. (See this site for some images, although not much content is available yet.)

The ERS-220 will sell for about £1,100. Sony is accepting pre-orders from Monday, although actual product will only ship in early December. It boasts 21 LEDs to express itself better, a retractable headlight, many more sensors and a greater degree of body movement.

In terms of new features, its photo-taking capability has been improved, as has its wireless networking support and vocabulary (now 75 words). There are also new software versions: Aibo Life 2; Aibo Navigator 2; and Aibo Explorer.

Down boy

Sony was hit with controversy last month after a programmer, calling himself AiboPet, was told to remove certain popular programs from his site that added new functionality or behaviour to the dogs. This is much like a developer making an application for, say, a Palm handheld. Sony insists that his code infringes the company's copyright.

At today's launch, Sony spokespeople were reluctant to discuss the incident, although they insisted that third party software developers are encouraged to code programs for the platform. However, developers must contact the company and gain its approval about what they wish to code.

The company sells a programming language called Rcode, shipping on a Sony Memory Stick for $34, that users can buy and use to develop unique Aibo actions. This is what AiboPet used to code his "hacks", which cross over the copyright border by taking advantage of original Sony code - even though his software is free and requires all original Sony software in order to work.

This dispute has many Aibo owners up in arms (see here and here), as many feel that the software merely makes the toy more exciting and doesn't advocate cheating Sony in any way. There is a petition site to get AiboPet's software back online.

Here kitty kitty

Japanese company Omron recently announced a feline version of Aibo: NeCoRo, which ships with acrylic fur, making it look startlingly realistic.

This toy doesn't come cheap either, RoboCat will sell for about $1500, according to an article from InfoSync. ®

Related Links

AiboPet's ShutDown AiboHack Site
Aibo's Official European Site
The New Aibo ERS-220

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