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Sony teaches old dog new tricks

Aibo gets a face lift

Sony has updated its Aibo entertainment robot with a new version that features upgraded electronics functions, but few improvements on the robotic front.

The ERS-7 Aibo looks a little different to the previous models, the last of which was the ERS-220 that was announced in May 02. Compared to that model the new Aibo has a faster processor, now running at 576MHz, and increased memory, at 64MB.

It has also been given a better "voice" in the form of a 64 polyphonic speaker and there are more lights in more colours around the robot's head to allow it to better communicate its "feelings", the company said. Sony has also added a bone to the bright pink plastic ball that has been the preferred toy of Aibo to date, reinforcing the widely held view that Aibo is a robotic doggy, not a generic "entertainment robot" as Sony insists on calling it.

A wireless LAN adapter is now built into Aibo as standard, allowing users to exchange data with the robot, including pictures from its image sensors mounted as eyes. The sensors are 300,000 pixel models capable of producing a VGA resolution image — higher resolution than the previous robot. Aibo has also been programmed with the ability to automatically search out its battery-recharging station when power levels get low.

On the mechanical side the new Aibo is little advanced from the last model. It has the same 20 degrees of movement although the servo motors have been upgraded and now allow for smoother and quieter movement.

The Aibo ERS-7 will go on sale in Japan on 27 September priced ¥185,000 (£1,001). It will also go on sale in Europe at around the same time, thought pricing has yet to be set.

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