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Sony takes leash off robot dog

The Japanese electronics giant unveils software that will allow Aibo owners to control the robot dog through e-mail commands.

Electronics giant Sony announced new software Monday that will allow Aibo owners to control the robot dog via e-mail commands.

The Aibo Eyes software, set to go on sale Tuesday, will also enable the popular electronic pets to beam digital photos to any PC or e-mail-equipped device.

Sony introduced Aibo in 1999, and the high-tech hounds quickly became popular with gadget buffs, thanks in part to software and hardware add-ons that let the pooches tackle new tasks.

"Over the last four years, we've pushed the boundaries of what robots can do, Victor Matsuda, vice president of Sony's Entertainment Robot America division, said in a statement. "With Aibo Eyes, the market is witnessing the future of things to come: A robot that is not only a companion but also offers practical applications."

Aibo Eyes will work with the robot's built-in digital imaging system to beam digital photos of whatever the dog sees, allowing owners to use the computerized canine as a home surveillance device or to monitor their kids.

Besides ordering the robot to capture images, the new software also accepts remote commands for Aibo to announce a prerecorded message, such as "Do your homework!"

Aibo Eyes will be available for $120 through Sony Style stores and the company's online Aibo store. Sony will also launch a new cobalt-colored version of the pooch, Aibo Cyber-Blue, priced at $1,300.