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Sony's robopet gets smarter and cuter

Aibo repertoire expands to offer hand kissing and dance routines

Sony's dog-like entertainment robot, Aibo, will reward its owners even more thanks to a software update that makes the electronic pet smarter and cuter.

The upgrade will allow Aibo to stand on its front legs, recognise your face and voice and provide you with your own private dance routine. Not bad for a robopet. Even better, you won't have to fetch the Pedigree Chum as this dog-like creature is cleverer than the real thing, and when it is running low on power it heads for its charger.

Sony unveiled two types of software in Memory Stick format for the Aibo. The ERF-210AW06J is called 'Oriko Aibo' (Smart Aibo) and the ERF-310AW13J is 'Kawaii Aibo' (Cute Aibo).

The Smart Aibo software allows owners of ERS-210 series Aibos to teach their robots to identify names, voices and faces. When the robot recognises its owner, it reacts differently by dancing. This software also makes the Aibo robot walk towards its battery charger when its power is low.

This software will come with a pink ball, a play accessory that has been available since the first Aibo robot came out. The Aibo robots respond to this pink ball by playing with it or walking towards it.

The Cute Aibo software, for ERS-310 series and 31L Aibo robots, makes the robot more friendly. With this software, Aibo will sense movements, voice and faces in front of it and start approaching them. The software also programs the robot to adopt cute poses such as turning its face up, standing on its front legs or kissing a presented hand.

Sony also announced a skateboard-like Speed Board for the ERS-210 and 220 series Aibo robots to ride and play with. A user can control the Speed Board by voice. For example, when the user says "right", the Aibo robot on the Speed Board makes a right turn. It can skateboard towards the pink ball, too.

The two types of software and the Speed Board will be released on 16 November in Japan, North America and Europe. The Smart Aibo software will be priced at ¥9,800 (£51), the Cute Aibo software at ¥8,000 (£41) and the Speed Board at ¥18,000 (£93).

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