Pleo: The robot you'll love

It would be easy to call Pleo a robotic dinosaur toy, but that's unfair to both Ugobe, Pleo's maker, and to Pleo itself

The scoop: Pleo, by Ugobe, about US$350

What it is: It would be easy to call Pleo a robotic dinosaur toy, but that's unfair to both Ugobe, Pleo's maker, and to Pleo itself. Ugobe considers Pleo, the representation of a 1-week-old Camarasaurus dinosaur from the Jurassic period, a new "life form." From the start, Pleo was designed to incorporate all the traits of "autonomous life" -- Pleo doesn't just walk around and make noises at its owner, he (or she) is capable of expressing joy, aggression, anger, even fear, depending on the actions of the owner or as a reaction to its environment.

From a technical standpoint, Pleo is impressive. Each Pleo runs off two 32-bit microprocessors for its central and image processing, and four 8-bit subprocessors for motor control. The dinosaur has 14 motors and more than 100 custom-designed gears for movement, two microphones, eight skin sensors, four foot switches, 14 force-feedback sensors, and an infrared and camera-based vision system that lets Pleo detect objects and colors. In addition, Pleo includes a mini-USB port and SD card slot, which let the owner download online software updates, as well as add programs that let Pleo do more-specific activities. Pleo has a proprietary, rechargeable battery pack that's easy to install and recharge (our review unit came with two battery packs, but we're not sure whether regular consumers get the same number).

Why it's cool: Forget about the technical specs -- the real joy in Pleo is the emotional bond it creates with the user. When we showed our Pleo to staff members, it was amazing to see the different reactions that the dinosaur would elicit. For the most part, female staff members wanted to touch, embrace and generally nurture the little dinosaur. Most initial reactions from the women were, "Oh, he's so cute!" and similar statements; they immediately forgot that Pleo is a machine and treated it like a puppy or other young animal (some even treated it like a newborn baby). For most of the men, interest in Pleo was about the technical side of things -- how many sensors, motors, battery life, and applications -- "What tricks can it do?" and so forth.

That's not to say the men didn't get an emotional kick out of Pleo. Whenever Pleo was able to do something interesting (such as walk to the edge of the table without falling off), the men were just as impressed as the women. Ugobe is promising additional software updates and downloads that allow Pleo to learn more things and "grow," and that will interest the men.

Some caveats: At US$350, Pleo is not designed to be a toy for young children. It's easy to lump Pleo in with other robotic toys (such as the excellent RoboPanda from Wowwee), but that would be a mistake. Compared with Sony's Aibo robotic dog from a few years ago, which cost at least US$1,000, Pleo is a relative bargain.

My other concern has to do with long-term interest in Pleo. After you've engaged with Pleo and he's learned to walk around, it seems as if that's all there is. It's possible that Pleo will grow and learn more things, but that will come with additional software. So, it's possible that many users could get bored with Pleo, unless they're trying to impress co-workers or friends.

Grade: 5 stars (out of five)

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Keith Shaw

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?