Advances in robotics have reached the point where intelligent toys — known as companion robots — are hitting the store shelves with high price tags. Furby maker Ugobe has developed a robotic dinosaur to appeal to that market segment, albeit with a cheaper and more emotional offering.
“Pleo” is a walking, talking robotic baby Camarasaurus, a shape developed using a fossil as a reference with the assistance of a paleontologist in order to make it less robotic and more saurian in appearance. It has a synthetic skin, instead of the robot exoskeleton look displayed by traditional companion robots, and more than 150 gears to give it lifelike movements.
Pleo also seems more realistic due to its learning computer; a nostril-mounted camera that allows it to see, with two IR sensors that can track motion and objects and help Pleo avoid failing off of ledges; sensors in its feet and skin that allow it to touch; a tilt sensor that tells the dinosaur when it has been picked up; and a voice-recognition system that allows it to react emotionally. These systems allow the robot dinosaur to react to stimulus from its user, responding with tail wags and mooing sounds if the words are gentle. Pleo can even show signs of depression if the user is too terse with it.
“You can consider it more of a lifelike creature than a toy,” Ugobe chief executive Bob Christopher said during an interview with CNET. “We’re kind of putting psychology back into robots.”