On January 11, in the Year of the Dog, a date which can be pronounced "wan wan wan" in Japanese, an onomatopoeia for barking, Sony revealed its third generation of its iconic pet robot dog Aibo to the world in a special ceremony at its Tokyo headquarters.

The first 30 buyers personally received their new pets from Izumi Kawanishi, head of project development for Aibo. In what was surely an exciting and emotional scene for each anxious new owner, their new Aibo arrived nested in a soft, cushiony case, and the owners were instructed to press the activate button to bring them to life.

Apparently, all slots were filled a mere 40 minutes after Sony launched the online reservation system, which Kawanishi called "A good start."

Standing at a height of 29 cm, and weighing 2.2 kg, Aibo is equipped with deep learning technology through which it can analyze information collected by various sensors and cameras distributed throughout its body. It recognizes its owners’ faces, can respond to voice commands and modifies its behavior like a real dog depending on the nature of the communication it has with its handlers. Moreover, its communication data is stored in a cloud-based service, and users can interacts with it through a smartphone application.

With a more rounded form and greater range of expression through its eyes and a broad range of subtly articulated behavior patterns, it is more interactive than its predecessors.

When Sony released the first generation Aibo in 1999, it quickly developed a loyal fan base. Despite its steep price tag (about 1,800 USD at the time), Sony sold over 150,000 units and created two generations before it stopped production in 2006. It was a unique foray into personal robotics amidst a market where entertainment robots were virtually non existent. Now with more players such as Softbank's robot Pepper and Sharp Corp.'s Robohon, Sony is keen on gaining a share in the communications and robotics markets slated for significant growth.

If you can't wait to buy your own Aibo, good news is ahead. Although no details have been revealed yet, Sony president Kazuo Hirao said in a statement on Jan. 9: "We'd like to expand sales to foreign markets." In the meantime, you can check their website for details on the new Aibo as well as the latest updates.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.