• Kyodo

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Sony Corp. started accepting advance orders Thursday in Japan for its new artificial intelligence-equipped Aibo robot dog, making it possible for every would-be buyer to own the electric pet amid greater-than-expected demand.

In January when Sony released an upgraded version of AIBO — its predecessor debuted in 1999 and was discontinued in 2006 — sales of the new model were limited by production capacity and consumers could only obtain one on a first-come-first-served basis or by lottery.

Fans can now preorder online through Sony, or actual stores in Japan.

Shortly after a Sony store opened Thursday in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district, there were about 10 people lined up for the canine robot.

“I feel unsure if I can take care of a real dog any more at this age,” explained Yoichi Iijima, 70, on why he decided to buy one. “I’m looking forward to having a new companion to talk with.”

Sony is producing Aibo units at a town factory in Kota, Aichi Prefecture. Aibo carries a tag of ¥198,000 ($1,760) excluding tax, and an additional ¥90,000 for a required three-year cloud subscription service. Despite the hefty price, it sold over 10,000 units in the first three months.

The Aibo comes with two cameras — one in its nose and the other above its tail — and a range of sensors to detect owner and environment. It can express itself through body language, barking and its large digital eyes.

Kazuo Hirai, then-Sony CEO, said in January they are also considering overseas market releases, including the U.S. and China

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