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Robots

"Pleo" robotic dinosaur to show emotions, reactions to human stimulus

Tuesday, December 12, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: robots, intelligent toys, health news


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(NewsTarget) 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."

Pleo is planned for release around the second quarter of 2007 with an initial price tag of $250. In order to go a step beyond such competitors as WowWee's Robosapien, Ugobe plans to publish a developer's kit and release its source code to consumers. With these codes, and Pleo's flash memory card slot and six microprocessors, owners can download different personalities for the dinosaur to invoke a variety of reactions to its user and environment, or even teach it to do tricks. You can see a video of Pleo in action here. The battery in Pleo is rated for 3 hours of continuous play, with a 3-year lifespan. The prototype's battery is not replaceable, but that may change by the time the toy is released.

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