It's said that dogs are man's best friend, but in recent years it feels like pooches have lost this role to ever-present and reliable smartphones. So, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that someone has combined the two. The SmartPet is a toy which, with the addition of your iPhone, becomes a cartoon-faced pet dog robot.

Created by Japanese toymaker Bandai, creator of the Tamagotchi, SmartPet recently impressed judges at the Tokyo Toy Show - with its tail-wagging, trick performing and cartoon facial responses - enough to scoop the innovative toy category award.

Said to be suitable for users over the age of 15 (though Bandai thinks 20 to 40-year-olds will be typical buyers), the SmartPet consists of a plastic robot body without a face ... but fret not, that's where the iPhone comes in. After downloading the SmartPet app from iTunes, users pop their iPhone into a case which then clicks into place to become the face of their new robotic canine companion.

Once the app is running, SmartPet springs into life and can walk around, sit up, wag its tail and respond to its owner using voice recognition, gesture commands and the touchscreen. It's said to have a total of 100 combinations of facial expressions and body movements, to respond to various user stimuli.

Users can also customize their SmartPet by selecting from a choice of faces and adding accessories (think sunglasses and the like) and thanks to that Bandai Tamagotchi heritage, look after their digital pooch by checking on its health and feeding or medicating it via the touchscreen menu. The menu also lets users access games with their SmartPet, set it to play music or interact with other SmartPets using Bluetooth.

SmartPet, which measures 6.7 x 6.7 x 4.3 inches (170 x 170 x 110 mm) and is powered by three AA batteries, will be available from this month for 7,800 yen (approximately US$100) and comes in either black or white.

Here's a video from Bandai showing someone dancing with their SmartPet.

Source: Bandai