Aibo Lives! Bandai Introduces Smartpet

Six years after Sony discontinued production of the Aibo, Japanese toy and video game maker Bandai (who gave us the cult favorite Tamagotchi) launches the Smartpet: A robot puppy powered with an iPhone (or iTouch) face and a free iOS app for brains. It looks like an Aibo that ran headfirst into a wall and squashed his head flat, but the simple drawing of a dog face on the screen makes it look cute.

The Bandai Smartpet works with iPhones and iPod Touch, to be released in Japan next month. (Image: Bandai)

The Bandai Smartpet works with iPhones and iPod Touch on the free Smartpet app, to be released in Japan next month. (Image: Bandai)

The Smartpet will ship out April 24 in Japan for ¥6,500 (US$78), in black or white. The Smartpet is compatible with the iPhone 3G, 4, 4S and the fourth generation iPod touch. Users can download the app from March 31 onwards. To play with the robot dog, just dock the iPhone or iTouch on the head cradle. Users can also use the app without the Smartpet, so you guys can still take care of your pet, but won’t have to bear the shame of bringing your toy dog on the bus for your office commute.

Like a Tamagotchi, the Smartpet needs care and attention. The more the owner takes care of it, the more “emotions” get unlocked via the display. It can recognize its owner by her touch, voice or gestures. The Smartpet can sing and dance, and even communicate with other Smartpets via Bluetooth. Interconnected Smartpets can sing together.

Sony stopped producing the Aibo in 2006, former CEO Nobuyuki Idei did not like the Aibo the first time he saw it in 1999, saying it was a 19th-century product instead of the 21st-century toy he had asked for. A similar toy was developed by Sega and marketed by Hasbro called the iDog, it reacted and danced to music from an outside source.

Just another way of running down your phone’s battery — but if the Tamagotchi craze is anything to go by, the Smartpet is going to be another hit for Bandai.