Most smart appliances can be remotely operated using an app, but for voice control, you usually need to add an intermediary like Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa. Sony thinks Aibo could fill that role too, in the company’s latest attempt to convince consumers to spend $2,900 (£2,261) on its robotic dog.
Since its re-release in the US last year, Sony has struggled to find compelling reasons for consumers to actually want to buy its robotic companion. It’s cute, as we found during our hands-on time with the pup, but not quite as adorable as the real thing – and Aibo’s novelty quickly wears off. Earlier this year, Sony partnered with a company in Japan called Secom to help turn Aibo into a security robot that could patrol a home to keep an eye out for intruders or provide reports on where family members are in a house. It was an improvement, but with an extra fee of around £11/month, Aibo remained a tough sell. Which brings us to its latest trick.
As recently demonstrated at the CEATEC show in Tokyo and in a video shared on YouTube, Sony may team up with Hitachi in Japan so that Aibo’s voice recognition capabilities could be used to control smart appliances through spoken commands, instead of having to rely on smart speakers scattered throughout a home. The robo-dog and the smart appliances all wirelessly connect to a home’s wifi network, allowing them to talk to each other. Aibo would then translate verbal commands and perform basic functions like turning on the microwave, or adding a few extra minutes to a dryer run.
The functionality would work in both directions, too. Instead of playing a chime when a load of laundry was done, a washing machine could trigger Aibo to incessantly howl, letting you know it was time to toss things in the dryer. Or if you’ve accidentally left the door open on the fridge, Aibo could start yapping to remind you of your absentmindedness.
The collaboration sounds like it could offer some compelling reasons to splurge on a robotic companion, particularly given Aibo’s other skills like facial recognition. It could wander through your house and track you down to ensure you don’t miss an important notification – something your phone or your fridge can’t do. Unfortunately, according to Engadget Japan, which spoke with Hitachi representatives at CEATEC, there are currently no concrete plans to make this connectivity available to consumers just yet.