The future of pets is due to arrive this Summer with the launch of the UGOBE Pleo. The UGOBE Pleo is more likened to the Sony AIBO in terms of the intelligence in the design.

Do not mistake this for those Fisher Price toys that do 10 different actions and 3 buttons for making a sound. The Pleo is so much more than that. Whilst I’ve not been able to get my hands on this cute looking creature, the videos that can be found on YouTube demonstrates some of the functionality that you can expect to see.

So what’s so special about this robot then? For starters it’s got a 32-bit ARM7 processor, 150 gears and clutches, 35 sensors, 14 servo motors, a camera, 2 speakers, USB connectivity and an SD/MMC slot. And what does it do with all that technology? It has the ability to move its eyes, mouth, head, neck, torso, tail and legs. It also has the ability to ‘see’ its owner and respond to the environment. The servo motors also have the ability to respond with a feedback system that detects touch.

Designers at UGOBE are programming the Pleo with the ability to interact with its environment and learn as he goes along. When you first switch it on, it wakes up as a new born baby and has actions that mimic what you would expect from a 1 week old CAMARASAURUS such as blinking, stretching and yawning. Some of the personalities that the Pleo has been programmed with include joy, sorrow, anger, annoyance.

The level of detail in how it acts and the diverse range of movements and personality traits are what make this robotic pet different to what you can get on the market right now. An example of this is when Pleo gets tired it goes to sleep, when it gets ill it coughs, sniffs and sneezes, when he wakes up he stretches. Most robotic toys and pets that exist on the market today are kinda dumb when you compare it to what the Pleo can do.

A regeneration bed will ship with the package and you simply attach the ‘dream cord’ so your Pleo can sleep and dream and most importantly, recharge his battery.

The stunning level of realism the the Pleo is designed to demonstrate is outstanding, especially when it comes to how ‘organic’ the movement is and if you get two or more of these together in a room they will recognise each other and even be able to ‘infect’ one another with a cold if one of them is ill.

With the built in sensors, you can expect a whole range of actions and a level of interactivity that no other current or upcoming product will have. Stroking its head or its back gives an appropriate response, much like what a real life pet would do.

In terms of the cool factor behind the Pleo, I think it’s just as unique as the AIBO was from Sony when it first came out where even now it’s considered the benchmark for a ‘robotic’ pet. This cute and cuddly robot dinosaur will evolve over time, so it’s not a 10-trick wonder. Initial reports indicate that the Pleo will ‘evolve’ over 3 years

The Pleo is the most advanced robotic pet that you will be able to own this year and at an expected price tag of $300, it’s not going to break the bank. I think it’s going to be one of the most wanted toys for the 2007 Christmas season and I can’t wait to see what future models will encompass.

So far from what I’ve read and seen about the Pleo, I can’t wait to get my hands on it. For me this is one of the most anticipated products of 2007 and I think it will set a new gold standard for affordable robotic pets that don’t leave a mess on your carpets. I’m going to be following this quite closely and we’ll keep you all posted if we can get one here in the TechCast Studio.

2007-03-14 Onwah Tsang

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