Old dog, new tricks: Sony unleashes ‘intelligent’ robot pet

1 / 3
A guest pets Sony’s new Aibo robot at a Sony show room in Tokyo Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. New Aibo is on sale from Jan. 11 in Japan. (AP/Eugene Hoshiko)
2 / 3
Sony’s new Aibo robot is displayed at a Sony show room in Tokyo Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. New Aibo is on sale from Jan. 11 in Japan. (AP/Eugene Hoshiko)
3 / 3
A guest pets Sony’s new Aibo robot at a Sony show room in Tokyo Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. New Aibo is on sale from Jan. 11 in Japan. (AP/Eugene Hoshiko)
Updated 11 January 2018
0

Old dog, new tricks: Sony unleashes ‘intelligent’ robot pet

Tokyo: As Japan celebrates the year of the dog, electronics giant Sony on Thursday unleashed its new robot canine companion, packed with artificial intelligence and Internet connectivity.
The sleek ivory-white puppy-sized “aibo” robot shook its head and wagged its tail as if waking from a nap when it was taken out of a cocoon-shaped case at a “birthday ceremony” held in Tokyo.
Seven-year-old boy Naohiro Sugimoto from Tokyo was among the first to get his hands on the shiny new toy, which he described as “heavy but cute.”
“The dog we had previously died... We bought this robot dog as we wanted a (new) family,” he said.
The 30-centimeter (one-foot) long hound-like machine comes complete with flapping ears and its eyes, made of a cutting-edge light-emitting display, can show various emotions.
Aibo is also fitted with an array of sensors, cameras and microphones and boasts Internet connectivity.
The owner can play with the pet remotely via smartphone and even teach it tricks from the office for the faithful hound to perform when its “master” gets home.
It builds up a “character” by interacting with people and while not always submissive, it is friendly toward those who are kind to it.
What the machine “learns” is stored in the cloud so its “character” can be preserved even in the event of hardware damage.
Photos it takes can also be shared.
But such cutting-edge canine technology does not come cheap, with the aibo costing nearly $3,000 for a three-year package, including software services such as data storage.


Aibo is not the Japanese electronic giant’s first foray into the animal robot entertainment world.
Its earlier robot dog was put to sleep more a decade ago — a victim of business restructuring — shocking fans.
Sony rolled out the first-generation dog in June 1999, with the initial batch of 3,000 selling out in just 20 minutes, despite a hefty price tag of 250,000 yen ($2,200 at current rates).
Over the following years, more than 150,000 units were sold, with numerous models ranging from gleaming metallic-silver versions to round-faced cub-like models.
But by 2006, Sony was in trouble. Its business model was under pressure and it was facing fierce competition from rivals in all fields.
The robot dog, an expensive and somewhat frivolous luxury, had to go.
Yasuyuki Nakamura, another owner of the new generation Aibo — his third robot pet — said he was happy to see the dog back in Sony’s catalogue.
“I had been waiting (for a new aibo). I ordered one as I was happy to see this kind of business was revived,” the 46-year-old said.
A middle-aged couple said they bought the robot for their 25th anniversary this year.
Sony plans to release the new aibo overseas as well but no details are set yet.
The dog does not speak human languages or perform tasks such as turning a light on.
But that is not the point of the product, according to Sony’s Izumi Kawanishi who is in charge of the project.
“You don’t think about what the dog can do when you want to get a dog, do you?,” he asked reporters.
“The point is that it touches a chord (with people),” he said.


Japan to trial ‘world’s first urine test’ to spot cancer

Updated 17 April 2018
0

Japan to trial ‘world’s first urine test’ to spot cancer

  • Previous research has shown a new blood test has potential to detect eight different kinds of tumors before they spread
  • The research starts in April and will run until September

TOKYO: A Japanese firm is poised to carry out what it hailed as the world’s first experiment to test for cancer using urine samples, which would greatly facilitate screening for the deadly disease.
Engineering and IT conglomerate Hitachi developed the basic technology to detect breast or colon cancer from urine samples two years ago.
It will now begin testing the method using some 250 urine samples, to see if samples at room temperature are suitable for analysis, Hitachi spokesman Chiharu Odaira told AFP.
“If this method is put to practical use, it will be a lot easier for people to get a cancer test, as there will be no need to go to a medical organization for a blood test,” he said.
It is also intended to be used to detect paediatric cancers.
“That will be especially beneficial in testing for small children” who are often afraid of needles, added Odaira.
Research published earlier this year demonstrated that a new blood test has shown promise toward detecting eight different kinds of tumors before they spread elsewhere in the body.
Usual diagnostic methods for breast cancer consist of a mammogram followed by a biopsy if a risk is detected.
For colon cancer, screening is generally conducted via a stool test and a colonoscopy for patients at high risk.
The Hitachi technology centers around detecting waste materials inside urine samples that act as a “biomarker” — a naturally occurring substance by which a particular disease can be identified, the company said in a statement.
The procedure aims to improve the early detection of cancer, saving lives and reducing the medical and social cost to the country, Odaira explained.
The experiment will start this month until through September in cooperation with Nagoya University in central Japan.
“We aim to put the technology in use in the 2020s, although this depends on various things such as getting approval from the authorities,” Odaira said.