Dinosaurs are known for a lot of things, but cuddly emotionalism isn't one of them
Ugobe will try to change that next year with "Pleo," an animatronic robotic dinosaur that reacts emotionally to its surroundings. If you talk cooingly to it, Pleo becomes more responsive, wagging its tail and offering to shake hands. But if you're curt, it can get depressed (the back slumps, it emits a mooing sound, the tail wags plaintively).
"You can consider it more of a lifelike creature than a toy," said CEO Bob Christopher in an interview in our offices. "We're kind of putting psychology back into robots."
So far cute and cuddly robots have died quick and horrific deaths in the market. But Pleo has a couple of things going for it. One, it's going to be relatively cheap. It will cost around $250 when it hits shelves in the second quarter next year, a lot less than the Aibo and several other failed companion robots.
Second, Ugobe will try to go beyond selling a robot that will essentially be a walking, talking toy. The company will publish a developer's kit and open its source code so others can tinker with its software. Consumers will be able to download personality modules so you can make your Pleo happy or bipolar. There will also be modules for doing tricks.
Someday, a third party or Ugobe could even come out with navigation devices so that you could program the Pleo to push a door open or perform some other task. WowWee has succeeded with RoboSapien, after all.
The Pleo, by the way, is anatomically correct. A paleontologist helped design it. It resembles a 1-week old Camarasaurus, a cow-like dinosaur from the Jurassic period.
We'll have a video and more details next week on News.com.