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Sony updates Aibo, the robotic dog

Sony's 11-inch-tall dog, which sold out in its Japanese release, will be available on a limited basis in the United States and Europe and will be re-released in Japan.

    Aibo the dog is back.

    Sony's 11-inch-tall robotic dog, which sold out in its Japanese release, will be available on a limited basis in the United States and Europe and will be re-released in Japan starting in November.

    Besides its status as a

    CNET TV: Aibo
    CNET TV: Aibo
    Video of original Aibo (5/29/99)
    mechanical pet, the robotic dog also makes use of all kinds of proprietary Sony technology, including the company's real-time operating system and Memory Stick storage technology. It is designed to "learn" from commands over time and from its environment, according to Sony.

    Aibo, available in silver and black, sold out in 20 minutes in Japan the first time it was released. Although Aibo is ostensibly expected to be used for purely entertainment purposes, it also reflect Sony's larger strategy of dominating the market for digital gadgets and devices by driving acceptance of its Memory Stick technology.

    Aibo 2.0 has new ears and a longer tail than its predecessor, Sony said, along with new motion and sound software.

    As the second largest consumer electronics manufacturer, Sony is laying the groundwork to dominate the digital home of the future. The company envisions a scenario where consumers would access the Internet from their Sony PC or PlayStation gaming console with Internet access, and transfer data to their Sony digital music or video player with the Memory Stick.

    Sony already dominates the nascent digital camera market, with 35 percent market share, according to International Data Corporation.

    About the size of a stick of gum, the Memory Stick works with almost all of Sony's products, from its upcoming MP3 music player to its digital video cameras and computers, and is seen as an easy method of storing and exchanging data from device to device.

    Sony will "maintain close contact with the users," of Aibo, the company said today, to better understand the future of the robotic market.

    At $2,500 for Aibo and $450 for the Aibo Performer Kit which includes the 8MB Memory Stick, the toy might be a bit pricey for the U.S. and European market, which have not showed the same rabid enthusiasm for electronic toys as the Japanese market, analysts have said previously.