I know the Wired on the plane ride home from CES.isn’t new to those that follow robotic pet news, but I had conveniently forgotten about what may turn out to be the most cuddly and obtainable robot to date – until I read an article in
Clive Thompson managed to grip my attention with one of the most interesting articles I have yet seen on the Pleo and its intrepid creator, Caleb Chung.
a face everyone could love
You can read the full Wired article here, and I certainly encourage you to – because it is very good stuff!
I’ll capsulize it here and tell you that it is basically the story of how Caleb, the mime/inventor/movie costumer/entrepreneur that brought us the sweet but simple Furby back in the 90s, wanted to go a step further. So anyway, Caleb wasn’t satisfied with the Furby, he wanted a robot that was a close to “alive” as possible, while keeping it affordable.
This quote is from page two of the Wired article:
In his garage workshop, Chung assembled a metal prototype and practiced controlling it remotely, like a puppet. A video of the model made its way to Bob Christopher, a start-up veteran who had sold a voice-over-IP firm he cofounded and was then running a sport scooter company. Though the mock-up looked more like a collection of Meccano parts than a dinosaur it didn’t even have a head or a tail the movement was spot-on. As it crouched in mock fear and then reared up curiously on its hind legs, the toy sent shivers down Christopher’s back.
“It was like something absolutely alive,” Christopher says. “I told Caleb, this thing is going to change the world. We’re going to make the first robot that you have a serious emotional relationship to. We’re going to do robots as lifelike as Blade Runner!” He pauses. “Except in, ah, a good way.”
The trick was to make it affordable. Chung figured Pleo would need nine motors to power the legs and spine and five to control the head and tail. It would need 30 potentiometers to be capable of proprioception a sense of where all its body parts were. And it would need a dozen sensors to detect external stimuli someone touching a limb, say and to “feel” its feet on the ground. It was a ton of gear and, worse, Chung didn’t want any of it to be visible from outside the bot. Nothing could break the illusion of realism.
Pleo will learn. He will be a product of his environment and upbringing; he will mature and display emotion. He will be hackable “by loading custom-brewed personalities into its memory card slot.” In fact Caleb seems to be looking forward to people going nuts with the code!
Pleo on his charging base
I don’t know why this particular robot appeals to me so much, maybe it’s because I watched The Land Before Time series wayyyy too much with Sarah when she was little. But mixing dinosaurs with robots…let’s just say that Caleb Chung and company have hit a home run with me. I am going to get on the preorder list February 3rd! With a price in the sub$300 area, Pleo is certainly much more affordable than the Sony Aibo I helped review in 2001, which retailed for $1500!!
So before I jump to the Ugobe Pleo Press Release, here is the Pleo YouTube Video that was referenced in the Wired article. No, there are no flashing lights or battle sounds; Pleo is a gentle robot that looks like he just needs a cuddle.
February can’t come soon enough. Hopefully Gizmo, my lap-warming Yorkie, will quickly get over the inclusion of this new household member. He had better…
The Ugobe Press Release:
PLEO PRE-ORDER INFORMATION WILL BE RELEASED HERE ON FEBRUARY 3, 2007
THE WORLD’S FIRST LIFE FORM
Can a long-extinct species be resurrected? Ugobe designers and engineers studied the long extinct Camarasaurus, a dinosaur from the Jurassic period. Pleo, a Ugobe Life Form is the authentic recreation born from that study. UGOBE’s designers and engineers recreated Pleo’s physiology from the fossils of the original. His height and weight are consistent with that of a one-week old infant camarasuarus.Pleo is a ‘designer species’. He incorporates all the basic traits of autonomous life. He is specifically engineered and enhanced to mimic life and relate to his owner on a personal level.Pleo is equipped with senses for sight, sound, and touch. He learns as he explores his environment. He will exhibit genuine reactions to sensory stimuli. Every Pleo begins life with certain tendencies but, interaction with his environment has subtle effects on his behavior. Every Pleo eventually exhibits a unique personality.Pleo is capable of expression. He can feel joy and sorrow, anger and annoyance. When Pleo is tired, he will become drowsy and go to sleep,even dream. Two or more Pleos will recognize one another. Be careful though. They can transmit colds to each other. Achoo! Pleo even sneezes!
FRIEND AND COMPANION
Pleo is a one-week old infant Camarasaurus from the Jurassic period. Camarasaurus were born and raised in giant fern forests. They evolved camouflage that allowed them to blend with their environment of ferns, moss and ruff, the detritus that littered the forest floor. The first Pleo created is a Fernback. His markings help him to survive by hiding among the giant fern fronds in his habitat.Pleo is an authentic Life Form. Treat him gently like any other living thing. Your Pleo will let you know how he feels at any moment. That’s because he is capable of actual emotions including joy, aggression, sorrow, and fear. He can also yawn, sigh, sniff, sniffle, snore, cough, hiccup, and sneeze.Pleo wants to explore his environment. He will be cautious when he walks to the edge of a table. He may cry when he is frightened. Pleo will stretch when he first wakes up. He may stomp his foot for food when hungry. When Pleo grows tired, lay him down and attach his ‘dream cord’ so he can sleep, dream, and gather energy for more exploration.MORE ABOUT CAMARASUARUS
CAMARASAURUS (KAM-ah-rah-sawr-us) “Chambered Lizard” (Greek kamara = chamber + sauros = lizard, referring to the holes in its vertebrae)
Also Known As: Morosaurus
Description: Herbivore, Quadrupedal
Height: 23 feet (7 meters)
Length: 60 feet (18.3 meters)
Weight: 40,000 lbs (18,144 kg)
Period: Late Jurassic
Camarasaurus is the best-known sauropod found in North America and the most abundant of fossils in the Late Jurassic. It also lived in Europe, where it survived into Early Cretaceous times. A complete, nearly perfect skeleton of a juvenile, 17-feet (5.2- meters) long, was found in Utah. Its head was short and box like with nostrils set above the snout and in front of the eyes. The weight of its backbone was lightened by holes in its vertebrae. Its neck was shorter and thicker than most sauropods and it possessed a short and somewhat flattened tail. The fore limbs and hindlegs of Camarasaurus were about the same length.