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Sony throws robodog a bone with upgrade
Friday, October 11 2002
by Ciaran Buckley

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Sony has upgraded the software for its robotic dog, so that it will bark when it sees its owner -- a sure sign of love given that the dog can "feed" itself.

The software, which will be available in the UK for the ERS-210 and ERS-210A Aibo models from November, enables the robot dog to recognise and respond to its owner's name, voice and facial features.

The owner registers his or her name with the dog using voice recognition software. Once the name has been registered, the owner will be prompted to look into the ERS-210 colour camera to register his or her face.

With the registration process complete, Aibo will have the ability to distinguish its owner's voice, face and name from those of other people. Upon hearing its owner's name, seeing their face or hearing their voice, the robot dog will express emotion, by flapping its ears, wagging its tail or making energetic gestures. Aibo can also recognise its own name, once it has been registered.

The new software application also enables the robot dog to recharge itself when its batteries run low. When the robot senses "hunger" it locates itself on its recharging unit. After the recharging is complete, the dog leaves the energy station and continues its activities as normal.

The new features build on the robot's current functionality, which allow it to seek to play with people, search for its favourite toy and display emotions such as happiness, sadness and even anger.

The robot will react when praised, but it will also respond to negative reinforcement. Sony says that if the owner praises Aibo when it is playing with a ball it likes, it will like playing with the ball even more. Alternatively, if the owner repeatedly scolds Aibo when it's looking at the ball, it will soon ignore the ball altogether.

The Aibo software will be available from www.eu.aibo.com or from high streets shops in the UK for around STG94.

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