What a conceptâ¿¿a removable battery!


The folks at Ugobe, an Emeryville, Calif., company building a robotic dinosaur, Pleo, have hit upon a brilliant solution to solving the problem of battery life; theyâ''re changing the productâ''s design to incorporate a removable battery. The bad news is the design change is going to further delay shipping, already nearly a year behind schedule.

A quick recap, for those who havenâ''t been sitting on eggs waiting for Pleo to hatch. (Groan, I know, I couldnâ''t resist.) Pleo, or at least a prototype, debuted back in 2006 at the Demo conference. In spite of not particularly liking robots or dinosaurs, this little creature (itâ''s about the size of a cat) wowed me. It comes out of the box as a newborn,

stretches, and slowly learns about the world. The demo model, at least, was adorable. Lead designer Caleb Chung (the guy who invented the Furby) promised little Pleo would be available by the 2006 holiday season for less than $200.

December 2006 came and went. In January 2007, Spectrumâ''s readers voted the product a loser. Iâ''m not sure if they were skeptical of the technology itself, or the marketability of a robotic dinosaur, I suspected the latter.

But the technology, it turns out, has been harder to develop, and to cost reduce, than anticipated. As of last month, the price had jumped to $349 and the ship date slipped to October 2007.

Today, Ugobe announced another delay. (To be fair to the company, they have been quite proactive in getting news of problems out, rather than allowing rumors to fly.) â''During pre-production testing,â'' stated the announcement, â''the UGOBE team encountered some significant problems with Pleoâ''s battery life.â''

The announcement went on to explain that the product will now incorporate a removable battery and will ship with an external charger, but that this design change will further delay the ship date. Still the company promises that Pleo will be under Christmas trees this year. And Iâ''ll review it as soon as I get my hands on one.

But back to that removable battery. Brilliant. Now, Apple, can we talk about the dead iPod sitting on my kidâ''s desk?


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