Those who looked longingly at Aibo, that pricey robotic puppy, in the shop window but could not afford the $1,300 price tag soon will be able to look longingly at Sony Corp.'s new lineup of robot dogs, which cost a mere $850.
The two new pups, Latte and Macaron, feature a softer, rounder look reminiscent of Japanese icon Hello Kitty. Sony is betting the two additions will attract a broader audience than Aibo owners, 75% of whom are males ages 25 to 35.
The two versions look nothing alike. Aibo is metallic and angular. Latte and Macaron, which are ivory and gray, respectively, look like plush toys. But the technology underlying the two models is similar. Both can recognize a limited number of words. Both take photos via cameras mounted on their faces. And both have sensors that allow owners to reward or discourage behaviors.
Macaron and Latte, however, don't have slots for a wireless local area network card, a feature that Aibo owners can use to wirelessly control the robots from their PCs.
Fans of anime cartoons will be pleased to know that Latte and Macaron will star in an anime series in Japan next month. The series will broadcast sounds designed to make the robots react.
Just so Aibo owners don't feel left out, Sony in August released Aibo Messenger, a program that instructs Aibos to fetch news and e-mail from the Internet via wireless downloads and recite them to their owners using a robotic speech editor. Because the $150 software requires a wireless LAN card, Latte and Macaron won't have this ability when they come out in October. But they will be able to interact with Aibos via infrared sensors on their noses.