01. 05. 2007
Pleo designer pets
I know that the January issue of Wired had a big fancy cover story on human enhancement, but the real treasure was Clive Thompson's piece on page 160. Caleb Chung, the freelance toy designer behind the Furby, is working to create a designer robotic pet with natural movements, a learned personality, and distinctive age cycles. Cross a Tamagotchi with an Aibo with a ballerina and you'll have captured what Chung is trying to accomplish with his Pleo designer pet.
Chung chose to model his pet after a dinosaur because the long neck and tail helped add to the range of motions available, and the large noggin was great for hiding sensors and gears. The Pleo prototype has 38 embedded sensors for sensing infrared, light, touch, sound, tilt, and physical feedback. Pet a Pleo and it will purr, but it will also learn what it takes to get that kind of attention.
When first powered on Pleo starts with the mindset of a puppy, and over the course of a few weeks gradually grows into adulthood. The permanent personality of the Pleo is defined in these first few weeks; be nice and you'll have a loving dinosaur, but treat it mean and you won't have a robo buddy to play with. During the puppy stage Pleo can learn tricks that will remain resident in memory, and there's a memory card slot for the homebrew scene to create custom personality and movement programs.
Preorders are projected to begin February 3rd, and street price is going to be in the $250 range. That's quite a bit cheaper than the four digit Aibo, and with community software development and all those sensors we should be able to get some interactive sophistication quite a bit better than an Aibo blog. Just FYI, Mr. Chung: Hurry up so I can have my own Pleo.