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Sony teaches Aibo new tricks

The electronics giant breeds the third generation of its robotic dog to include a faster CPU, a higher-resolution camera and twice as much memory as have its predecessors.

Sony Electronics has bred the third generation of its Aibo robotic dog to be faster, smarter--and floppy-eared.

The company's Entertainment Robot America division on Thursday announced that the ERS-7 model of Aibo is more responsive to voice and touch commands than are previous models. And with improved infrared sensors, it is better able to avoid walls, obstacles and edges. The digital pup also features a faster CPU (central processing unit), a higher-resolution camera and twice as much memory as have its predecessors.

Since its introduction in 1999, the Aibo breed has been regularly gaining new features and functions. In May, for instance, Sony released Aibo Eyes software that enables the high-tech pet to send digital photos to a PC or e-mail-equipped device.

The ERS-7 can understand nearly 180 voice commands and, using visual-pattern recognition technology, can find its Energy Station and recharge itself when its battery runs low, the company said. It also features Illume-Face, an LED (light-emitting diode) face panel that lets it better express its feelings, emotions and current conditions.

"This latest generation design is a result of significant evolutionary advancements in robotic hardware and software, as well as our analysis of what people want most in an Entertainment Robot," Victor Matsuda, ERA's vice president, said in statement.

The new model, which includes a 32MB Memory Stick, an Energy Station to recharge its battery and wireless LAN (local area network) software, will be be available at retail and online in November, priced at $1,599.

In addition, software updates due later this year will let owners add new content via the Web to their dog's Mind Memory Stick.