Sony Aibo first impressions: old robot dog, new tricks

D'aww! But no touching.

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    Sony revived its robodog series late last year, offering a limited first run of next-generation Aibos for keen Japanese fans. Despite a killer $1,800 price-tag, the company apparently sold plenty, and those preordered Aibos are finally on their way to their new owners. Finally, the company has brought the new robotic pet over to Vegas for the week from Japan, and while I could coo in Aibo's general direction, unfortunately, no petting was allowed. Regardless, it was disarmingly cute.

    Gallery: Sony Aibo robot puppy | 11 Photos

    The dog understood a handful of English-language directions, including hand-shaking and commands to sit. The revived Aibo has cute, glassy OLED eyes and a camera inside its nose, which can act as a webcam for your home when you're away. The robopup contains a quad-core CPU, built-in LTE and WiFi, as well as motors and gyroscopes to augment the 22 different articulated parts. It has speaker for robotic yips and yaps and four microphones to pick up voice commands -- something it was capable of doing despite the noise of a packed Sony press event.

    Multiple touch-sensitive zones on Aibo's back, front and head ensured the robot visibly reacted to the Sony-approved robodog handlers, but I'm more interested to see how the robot dog behaves once it learns to differentiate between owners. According to Sony spokesman, your Aibo will begin to learn which humans give the best snuggles, or at least whoever pets it the most.

    Dogs may be man's best friend but Aibo won't be yours unless you give it some love -- no matter how much you paid for it.

    Mat once failed an audition to be the Milkybar Kid, an advert creation that pushed white chocolate on gluttonous British children. Two decades later, having repressed that early rejection, he completed a three-year teaching stint in Japan with help from world-class internet and a raft of bizarre DS titles. After a few years heading up Engadget's coverage from Japan, covering high-tech toilets and robot restaurants, he heads up our UK bureau in London.

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