Pleo Dinosaur Robot Marches Its Way into My Heart

Pleo is a new $350 ‘life form’ dinosaur robot created by Ugobe. Unlike all the robot dinosaurs I know (e.g. the WowWee Roboraptor), the Pleo is not remote-controlled. It’s ‘self-aware’. It ‘evolves’. It’s also not very badass. This thing, in a very mass-appealing kind of way, is a puppy.

As for the innards: pretty standard. A bunch of touch sensors for caressing, a speaker in the mouth, binaural mics in the ears, some light sensors, and a camera. It’s got a SD card slot and a USB port for, presumably, uploading sweet dance moves. It comes with a plastic leaf that it gnaws on. Pleos can also go multiplayer via IR and when brought together will snuggle and stuff.

Practically, I think this is a perfect fit for the Sony Aibo owner crowd. It’s wayyy cheaper (Aibos were retailing for $2000 before they were axed), it’s got the same sensors, and it’s pretty playful (it freaked the crap out of the TechCrunch dog). One downside is the rubber skin, which is pretty good-looking but not great to pet. Unlike the Aibo, however, the dinosaur comes standard two batts. Most importantly, Ugobe has made this thing just plain animate, and not in an awkward way.

But can you hack it? Pleo runs something called ‘Life OS’ and has a scripting language ‘loosely based on C’. They say “you will be able to modify Pleo’s behavior using scripting, but not the underlying Life OS.” So, basically, no soccer-playing Pleo’s anytime soon. Besides, it wouldn’t be very good. The camera ‘detects light from dark’ and ‘can track a moving object’, but the resolution or shutter speed, unfound, are probably not great. The legs only have two degrees of freedom and so it maxes out hobbling around. But all in all, for $350 bucks, the Pleo is a fine coffee table robot.