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New extinction of robotic pets – Pleo the dinosaur euthanized

By Rob Aid
3 Comments16 May 2009

thepleo.jpgIt is a trend around the world to cancel the production of projects which bring the joy to our children or the child within us all. Sony stopped producing the lovable doggy AIBO and the development of their very agile dancing robot QRIO in the beginning of the year 2006. Ugobe, the Idaho-based consumer robotics company that brought the world Pleo, the adorable robotic dinosaur, is extinct. The company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April and made plans to liquidate its assets.

Ugobe unveiled Pleo to great attention and acclaim in 2006, but delays and the lack of further development beyond the initial rollout of the robotic dinosaur may have. In recent years, Ugobe changed leadership and moved from its California-based offices to Idaho. Pleo was always manufactured in Hong Kong.

Perhaps the most sophisticated consumer robot since Sony’s AIBO robot dog, Pleo charmed reviewers and consumers when it finally arrived in stores in 2007. It was an animatronic dinosaur toy designed to emulate the appearance and (imagined) behavior of a week-old baby Camarasaurus. With cartoon looks, a puppy-like personality that developed over-time and a web site where you could download personality enhancements and interact with other Pleo owners, the Ugobe creation looked poised for success. At the time, Ugobe execs promised that Pleo would be just the first of many Life Forms. The product certainly had the pedigree for success: Furby creator Caleb Chung helped design it and was front and center during the product launch.

Chung selected this species of dinosaur because its body shape, stocky head, and relatively large cranium made it ideal for concealing the sensors and motors needed for lifelike animation. According to Ugobe, each Pleo would “learn” from its experiences and environment through a sophisticated artificial intelligence and develop an individual personality.

The robot was software-upgradeable via SD card or USB interfaces. Ugobe encouraged user modifications of the robot’s firmware, provided links to 3rd party developed tools such as a graphical interface for home users called MySkit, and a canceled API for programmers called a “PDK.” (Pleo Developers Kit).

However, unlike WowWee which sells robotic toys (that lack the ability to learn or change over time) for a more affordable price, the price of Pleo and its slow locomotion, lack of features like a camera or a remote control may have held up its adoption.

Though the official website of Pleo and support for it seems to be discontinued, it can be found in stores and there is an unofficial website with a support forum named http://www.bobthepleo.com.

With some companies pulling back on research and development of similar toy robots, we have to be concerned over companies having more invest in development the war machines instead the ones which bring the joy to the world.

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3 Comments — Leave your response!

  • Avatar

    Thanks Rob. Having a robo dino is much more cool than a robo dog. HEHE

  • Avatar
    Ignatius Nangombe

    I would like to place an order. What is the nearest shop with Namibia. These products are good for the kids and I bought for two for my kids in South Africa Airports.

  • Avatar
    Damir Beciri

    The closest online shop I found is in South Africa.

    Check The Gadget Shop website to get one there.

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