Sony gives Aibo a face lift

Sony Corp. 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 company's previous models, the last of which was the ERS-220 that was announced in May 2002. Compared to that model the new Aibo has a faster processor, now running at 576MHz, and increased memory, at 64M bytes, the company said in a statement Thursday.

It has also been given a better "voice" in the form of a 64 polyphonic speaker and there are more lights in more colors around the robot's head to allow it to better communicate its "feelings" to users, 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.

A Wireless LAN adapter is now built into Aibo as standard, allowing users to exchange data with the robot including image data from its image sensors mounted as eyes. The sensors are 300,000 pixel models, which are capable of producing a VGA resolution image, and are higher resolution than the previous robot, Sony said. 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, Sony said.

The Aibo ERS-7 will go on sale in Japan on Sept. 27 and carry a price tag of ¥185,000 (US$1,595). It will also go on sale in the U.S. and Europe at around the same time, Sony said.

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Martyn Williams

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