Can Pleo the robotic dinosaur replace the family cat?


Photo: Ugobe

Spectrum senior editor Tekla S. Perry and her kidsâ''ages 9, 12, and 16â''adopted a ­dinosaur for two weeks. We're talking about Pleo, the AI-powered toy dino. The kids, who quickly decided that Pleo was a girl, liked its realistic movements and sounds. But Perry thinks the robot needs better batteriesâ''and a behavior software update. The Perry family is keeping the cats.

The brainchild of Ugobe, a robotics ­company in Emeryville, Calif., Pleo looks and acts the way youâ''d expect a baby Camarasaurus to, thanks to ­sophisticated ­robotics. She has two 32-bit and four 8â''bit ­microprocessors, ­fourteen motors, a ­camera, two ­microphones, eight ­sensors under her ­rubberized skin, a tilt ­sensor, an infrared mouth sensor, fourteen force-­feedback sensors, and four switches in her feet.

First, the good: the ­movement and sounds are indeed amazing. My ­daughter handed Pleo to a friend to cuddle, and Pleo nestled in and wrapped her tail securely around the friendâ''s arm, completely freaking her out. Our cats considered Pleo real and scaryâ''they ran for cover whenever we tried to get them to meet her.


When I first saw Pleo two years ago, at a conference for emerging technologies, I was impressed by Ugobeâ''s claim that the dinosaur would develop a personality based on how it was treated. But now the company says it will provide most of that malleability only later, via free software updates.

Read the entire review, and for a look under the skin of Pleo, here's a video showing how its sensors work.



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