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Sony is planning a whole range of robots after Its Aibo dog

(Bloomberg) -- The verdict is still out on Sony Corp.’s new pet dog ‘aibo,’ but that’s not stopping the company from planning a deeper push into robotics.

The mechanical mutt, which goes on sale in Japan on Thursday, is just the beginning of the Tokyo-based company’s return to robotics, Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai told Bloomberg TV. While aibo is primarily a toy, its artificial-intelligence capabilities and robotic architecture can be used to create machines for various service fields, he said.

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The Sony Aibo dog at CES on Jan. 8. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

“The technology we incorporated into aibo -- A.I., robotics, and that combination -- in different form-factors can manifest itself in other robots that can be a part of transportation, education, health care,” Hirai told Bloomberg’s Emily Chang. “So it has a lot of different applications beyond just being an entertainment robot.”

Hirai ordered the push into robotics in 2016, a decade after Sony discontinued the original version of its robot dog -- then called AIBO -- which had gained a cult following in Japan. While the new aibo promises more functionality powered by advanced artificial intelligence, it has drawn criticism for lacking features offered by digital assistants such as Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa and Apple Inc.’s Siri.

Aibo costs 198,000 yen ($1,800) plus a monthly fee of 2,980 yen. Amazon’s Echo speakers, which run Alexa, range from $50 to $230.