Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

David Zax

A View from David Zax

A Robot Dog with an iPhone Face (Video)

The makers of Tamagotchi bring cuteness to weaponized levels.

  • March 28, 2012

Man’s best friend? There’s an app for that.

Robotic dogs are nothing new; Wikipedia, God bless it, even has a list of them. The AIBO may be the most iconic (at least, it’s the only one I personally encountered), even though it was discontinued in 2006.

But a robotic dog that uses an iPhone for a face? That’s a new one, so far as I can tell.

Bandai–the Japanese company with some expertise in virtual pets, having brought us the Tamagotchi–yesterday announced its forthcoming robotic-app-dog-thing. My own Japanese being a tad rusty, I rely here for details on The Verge, whose Sam Byford either has an impressive Japanese ability or is much better at parsing Google Translate than the average person.

The robot’s being called “Smartpet,” will come out on April 24th in Japan, and is suggested to retail around $78 (¥6,500, more to the point). It’s coming in a black version and a white version, as you can see here.

Bandai thinks it can sell 200,000 of these guys within its first year on the market alone. Why so confident? It’s more than just a robot with a pretty face. A free app makes the Smartpet, well, smart. Using the Facetime camera, you can make movements to tell the robo-pup to do various tricks; Smartpet can also recognize voice commands, serve as an alarm clock and hands-free phone, and it has a library of 100 facial expressions to help it prep for whatever the canine equivalent of the Turing test is.

The app comes out on March 31st, a full week before the robotic bodies start to sell–so if you live in Japan, you can get to know your new pet’s face even before you purchase its body. Smartpet, then, is something like a Tamagotchi with a robotic torso acting as a “dock” of sorts. You can carry your pet with you wherever you go–though it probably feels most at home at its own body.

This divorce of the mind and flesh of your pet is a tad strange, no? Does it point to a cloud-based future in which our dogs, cats, and hamsters, like so much else that is precious to us, sync across all our devices?

Cut off? Read unlimited articles today.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.