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SONY’s final AIBO model was the ERS-7, released beginning in November 2003 for $2000.  Three colors were introduced to market; pearlescent white, pearl black, and champagne brown.  With the release of the third color came AIBO Mind 3 software, which allowed it to understand Spanish for the first time (approximately 30 words and phrases), and speak approximately 1000 English words.  It could also download RSS feeds and read them to you.  AIBO Mind 3 also provided a limited short term memory mapping function, allowing the AIBO to remember the approximate location of its charging station, people’s faces, toys, walls, and favorite place much more quickly.

Some of the distinctive features of the ERS-7 model include: floppy ears and tail; the Illume-Face LED array which displays a variety of facial expressions and emotional indicators;  LEDs in its back, three IR distance sensors for avoiding obstacles and ledges; and several touch sensors.  Owners can load digital music files directly from a memory stick, which play through the ERS-7’s speakers as it dances along to the beat.

The ERS-7 has accessories, such as its AIBOne, a pink bone which it can find and pick up in its mouth.  Its complex pattern recognition allows it to find its power station, and read special cards which an owner can use to play with it.  Cards teach your AIBO a new trick or cause it to perform certain expressions.  Like previous models, the ERS-7 autonomously explores your house taking snapshots of what it sees, sending them to your email or cellphone so that you can see what it’s been up to.  As it learns new behaviors it goes through three stages of A.I. beginning at ‘puppy’ through to ‘adult’.

Sadly, SONY officially stopped all production by January 2006, and with the cancellation of both the AIBO and QRIO robots, most of the scientists quit to work at other companies or universities to continue work in their field.

SONY has promised its customers to support each AIBO model for up to seven years after the initial sale date.  The AIBOs have been retired from the RoboCup soccer leagues, replaced by French upstart company Alderberan Robotics’ NAO robot, which has abilities similar to the AIBO but in bipedal humanoid form.  All good things must come to an end, and in the AIBO’s case one can only hope that even robo-dogs go to heaven.


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