Sega takes leash off robot dog

Sit! Stay! Play dead! Play MP3s! Synch with Microsoft Outlook! Watch out, Aibo, there's a new dog in town.

Sony launched the market for robotic dogs in 1999, when it unleashed Aibo. But there's new competition from rival Sega Toys.

On Wednesday, the Japanese electronics specialist took the wraps off its latest invention in Tokyo, a robotic canine known as iDog that can be used to compose and play music. It also dances to the beat.

According to the Japan Today news site, the four-legged automaton features a number of switches located on its nose and other parts of its diminutive body that are used to create and play music. It has other buttons that cause the pet to light up or express emotions. The mechanical beast also features onboard sensors that detect and react to movements when it is held in an owner's hands. According to another Japanese news site, ASCII24.com, the iDog has an audio input jack located at the base of its left hind leg that gives owners the chance to program the pets with their favorite devices, including Apple Computer's iPod digital music player.

The toy is due out in April, according to the news sites. It was unclear, however, where iDog will be released and what the price would be.

The iDog mimics some of the capabilities built into the latest version of Sony's well-known robotic pooch. Announced in October, the newest Aibo plays digital music files and songs from CDs, and it also dances. The Sony robot is compatible with MP3, WAV, and Windows Media files and can be controlled wirelessly from a PC. It offers a scheduling tool that is compatible with Microsoft Outlook, so it can be used to remind its owner of appointments. It also has video-recording capabilities.

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