AIBO (Artificial Intelligence Robot, homonymous with aibō (相棒?), "pal" or "partner" in Japanese) is an iconic series of robotic pets designed and manufactured by Sony. Sony announced a prototype robot in mid-1998. The first consumer model was introduced on May 11, 1999. New models were released every year until 2005. Although most models were dog-like, other inspirations included lion-cubs and space explorer, and only the final ERS-7 version was explicitly a "robot dog".