Paying the SCI FI Tech lair a visit today was Pleo, the upcoming dinosaur robot from Ugobe. Pleo, you may remember, is an artificial pet that promises to take robot interactivity to a new level. Unlike other dinobots in the wild that require a controller, Pleo is fully autonomous — just turn him on and let him go. Guided by sensors, he responds to both touch and sound, and the onboard software is said to let Pleo to adapt to your habits. He also has something I haven't seen on any other petbot: skin.
The prototype the Ugobe guys brought over pretty much worked as promised, even if they had to swap out SD cards to get Pleo to do any tricks. In the final version, all of that will be in the internal memory, although the SD slot will still be there for you to add your own mods and upgrades (there'll also be a USB port). Which points to one of the more interesting aspects of the little guy: he's customizable. Ugobe hopes to spark a whole Pleo community by allowing users to essentially "hack" the robot — possibly to do things like take pictures with the camera in the nose (out of the box, it's just used for guidance) or make him more combative.
After having trouble with Pleo's gears and skin, Ugobe junked plans for a holiday release and is now aiming for a spring 2007 rollout; it'll cost $250. You can get a taste of my first impressions of Pleo after the jump as well as some video of the baby dino in action. Not enough for you? We got'cha covered — come back tomorrow for more news and video.
Picking him up for the first time, I felt that Pleo had a little more heft than Wow Wee's Roboraptor, and the skin adds to the durability somewhat. But Pleo was definitely not built to win any races — his slow walking speed (you can see his crawl in the video) would invite the relatively quick Roboreptile to have him for lunch. Pleo's reaction time, though (how long it took to respond to interactions), was near-instantaneous. Since the idea with Pleo is to give you something close to an actual pet, as opposed to a toy, that's essential. His voice could use a bit more volume, though (apparently the final version will be louder). The built-in NiMH battery is rated at 2 hours of continuous use; charging takes about 4 hours. And you cannot play with him while he's charging. Apparently there are safety regs about that, although Ugobe CEO Bob Christopher said he preferred the limitation because the cord would "shatter the illusion." Uh-huh.
More on Pleo's cool tricks — and limitations — tomorrow.