When Sony announced recently that they would be terminating their well-known robot dog Aibo, robot enthusiasts began looking desperately for another company and product to fill the void. Last week, Ugobe, the California-based robotics company co-founded by Furby designer Caleb Chung, caught the attention of many tech blogs, including Robot Gossip, who wondered if they would be able to live up to the promise published on their homepage to “develop and market revolutionary robotic technology that transforms inanimate objects into lifelike creatures exhibiting stunning, organic movement and behaviors.” Ugobe stepped up to the plate this morning at the DEMO 2006 conference currently under way in Phoenix, AZ and announced details about their first “Designer Life Form” robot, Pleo, modeled after a one-week old infant Camarasaurus.
Although Pleo will not be available for purchase until the fall of 2006, and all of the first hand accounts I’ve been able to find have been limited to 3D renderings and a rough prototype, Ugobe bucked with what seems to be the tradition of being vague about product specifications until the actual launch by publishing a very detailed press release about Pleo including its features and capabilities.
From the press release:
Pleo features include
- 14 servo joints (torso, head, tail, neck, legs) with force feedback
- 38-touch, sound, light and tilt sensors including nine touch sensors (mouth, chest, head, shoulders, back, feet) and 8 feet and toe sensors
- Fluid quadruped motion
- Ability to avoid obstacles and not walk off edges
- Sound output, stereo sound sensors and music beat detection
- Autonomous interaction with owner and environment including coughing, blinking eyes, chomping, twitching, sighing, sneezing, sniffing, growling stomach, tail drift, and yawning
- Distinct moods including anger, boredom, playfulness, hunting, cautious, cuddling, disgust, disorientation, distress, fear, curiosity, joy, sorrow, surprise, fatigue, hunger, and a desire for social interaction
- Upgradeable, Life Form OS and Personality System
- SD card memory expansion
- Ability to communicate with other UGOBE Life Forms
- Rechargeable battery
At an estimated retail price of $199, Pleo will be in direct competition with the popular entertainment robots produced by WowWee, including the Roboraptor and the Roboreptile which is due to hit stores this summer. WowWee has itself proven to be an exceptional company in that it has succeeded in creating cheap, yet compelling robots while so many others have failed. It remains to be seen if Pleo can live up to Ugobe’s hype, but based on the powerhouse team of robotics experts, programmers, biologists and animators they have assembled, I’d be surprised if it failed due to technical reasons.