Japanese tech giant Sony might make a comeback into robotics after more than a decade of inactivity in this sector, and its next consumer-grade robot could be backed by recent advancements in artificial intelligence. According to a recent report from Asia Nikkei, Sony is reassembling the former Aibo team in order to rekindle its robotics segment with a new household product powered by AI. However, while the company is reportedly planning on re-entering the market with an Aibo-like robotic dog that can offer functionalities similar to Google Home and Amazon Echo, its long-term plans are to push its new robotic business beyond the consumer electronics segment.
Sony has had quite a history with robotics, with the Aibo robot dog launching back in 1999 when the concept of artificial intelligence was reserved only for the mightiest of supercomputers. Having said that, the Aibo robot was more of an achievement in mechanical engineering rather than AI, and as the robot lacked a strong sense of awareness and context, it failed to create the big ripples Sony was perhaps hoping for. Then, in 2006, Sony terminated the Aibo program with roughly 200 team members being transferred to other divisions, including the PlayStation and digital camera segments. However, with the recent advancements in the AI field, perhaps this would be the perfect time for companies like Sony to rekindle their interest in robotics, and according to recent reports, Sony is doing exactly that. The company has reportedly gathered some of the former Aibo team members to work on a new project revolving around a smart robot dog that can communicate, set reminders, and interact with other smart household items.
But interestingly enough, the report goes on to mention that Sony is not stopping there, and instead, the new robot dog project might represent only the beginning of Sony's return. The company aims to become a significant name in the field of robotics and the robot dog will allow Sony to determine exactly what technologies should be pursued in the future. As for what type of AI will be employed by the robot dog, Executive Deputy President and Chief Financial Officer, Kenichiro Yoshida, previously said that Sony's own AI platform can no longer compete with giants like Google's Assistant and Amazon's Alexa, and in turn this could indicate that Sony will rely on a third-party solution while focusing most of its resources on the mechanical engineering side of things.