Pleo ~ he’s not just a robot. And yes he’s real (contrary to those blasphemous rumors that were flying around earlier this year).
Met up with Pleo (and Ugobe CEO, Bob Christopher) as they made their way through Beverly Hills ~ at the Peninsula Hotel Bar. This one week old Camarasaurus is a robot that pushes the bounds of emotional AI. I’m not a big “awwwww how cute” kind of girl, especially when it comes to my tech. But as much as i love the look and style of my vicious RoboRaptor, there was SOMETHING about this little guy that made me need to poke/pet it as soon as i sat down with it… and i only got to play with the prototype, whose skin isn’t even as perfect as in the production models!
For the skeptics ~ i can’t explain it ~ there’s something about the experience of the interaction that they’ve nailed. With a camera in his nose, various programed play patterns (he can do a body wave, shake hands, downward dog!, and more) which will even mix themselves up and evolve over time, he even responds to various voice fluctuations… the key with robots and these user experiences is to work so well, you never stop to wonder how it works, or why it isn’t working. And for a robot, his skin and motions (very quiet motions due to custom designed gears!) ~ really contribute to this surreal experience. Granted he’ll never replace your puppy… he kind of feels more like a jim henson character come to life, and really brings out the wide eyed kid in you. [loads more pics and a few more thoughts below]
Pleo nods “yes”
Pleo with UGOBE CEO, bob Christopher (there’s something almost paternal going on there)
This is one product that manages to transcend the remote controlled robot feeling that i get from most of the Wowee products ~ and its not as creepy as the furby (although distantly related) ~ and has more character than the Nabzatag… so i think i’d have to categorize it as more of a lifestyle product… it kind of encompasses a little of all of its predecessors in the field, and really pushes the emotional aspects… Can you believe that each Pleo will be hand colored??? And each and every one will apparently evolve into their own “personality”.
What’s beneath that realistic feeling skin? (well, realistic for what i’d imagine a dino pup to feel like?)
Once you look beneath his skin, you realize how complex he really is. It’s a computer trapped in a 1 week old dinosaur! I’m impressed with the fact that it will be priced at $250, and has openly embraced the open source community so nicely… in fact the pleo will have a USB connection, an SD slot, and you can openly hack him up… they will even have a web UI for even the youngest kids to play with and program behaviors and play patterns, and even teach it new things. Their forethought to allow all levels of experience to take control of their Pleo into their own hands ~ might make this just the toy to help peak some of the younger kids interests to help create the future of AI and Robotics. If the interface really does become as simple as it seems in the mockup below ~ this little guy has a lot of potential.
Ugobe’s Pleo ~ scheduled to be released end of Q1 2007.
for some fun videos ~ i love the ones over at Sci-Fi’s Tech blog.
i know it is a camarAsaurus ~ but every time i read/hear the name, i think of a Camaro. The car.