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Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Pleo - There's a baby dinosaur on my lap!

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Right now I'm having a very surreal experience. I am trying to type on my computer keyboard while a small playful creature with green and yellow skin is raising a raucous on my lap. He's squirming his little feet and looking up at me with big crystal blue eyes . I am convinced that he is trying to guilt me into ending my typing so I will come play with him. The verdict? When an adorable blue eyed baby dinosaur is pitted against the task of typing at the computer, the baby dino wins everytime!

I'm back now. I managed to tucker the little fellow out and he's in dino dreamland while I recharge his battery pack. Fortunately Ugobe has provided a spare battery so I could feed him the new battery, but I am using this opportunity as an excuse to get some work done while fighting the feeling of being a neglectful dad.

Baby's First Steps

When Pleo wakes up for the very first time he goes into a period of squirming where he writhes about trying to figure out how to move all his tiny limbs. He scrunches the carpet, wiggles his tail, kneads his toes, and acts more adorable than you could possibly imagine. Slowly he begins to master his tiny body while purring, mooing, and mewling with appropriate baby-like abandon.

And boy does he love to be touched! I don't know if all Pleos are the same, but the Pleo I was given to review by the incredible Ugobe folk is a fiend for a good chin scratch. He responds playfully and with gratitude nearly everywhere you touch him, but when I gave him a good 30 second scratching under the chin, his body went near catatonic while his tiny tail shuddered with excitement. Even more enchanting is the adorable way he craned his tiny head to look up at me.


The most amazing part of the Pleo experience is how I feel towards him; especially when I do something he doesn't like. Pleo isn't shy about baby growling when I place him in my lap at an odd angle, or hold him aloft in the air (I am just trying to watch his tiny toes move, honest!). It's astonishing how quickly I put him down and loudly apologize to him. It is a very intriguing place to be emotionally when you look at Pleo and realize that you are genuinely wondering what he is thinking.

Another heart string Pleo pulls with great skill is when he moos with sadness when you leave him alone too long. I really wanted to see him walk about but it was over 30 minutes before I could listen to him moo-moan without reflexively stroking him on his back to reassure him. (Pleo won't walk while you are petting him). Finally I managed to survive a few guilt attacks and watched him putter about the carpet. Since he is not mine to keep I have nicknamed him Moonwalker instead of Digger which is what my Pleo will be named. I have anointed him Moonwalker because for some reason he loves to walk backward at times!

Review Points

If you haven't figured it out yet, I adore the little guy, but I know some of you want some questions answered. Is there anything I didn't like? Some minor things at first. It took a while to get used to the rubbery skin and figure out how to pet him smoothly. Also, I did notice the gear noise when I first played with him, despite the fact Pleo is significantly quieter than any other robot I own. Finally, I had a tendency to accidentally bump Pleo's volume button when I picked him up, which I did a lot, and discovered that Pleo had suddenly gone mute until I pressed the button again. Pleo's volume button is a small push button under his belly.

However, all of these issues melted away rapidly in the symphony of beautiful baby animal animations, playful sounds, and big blue eyes that is Pleo. It's all about the suspension of disbelief. To me, Pleo doesn't feel like a robot that happens to have some really cool movements and a few clever movement tricks. Pleo feels like a little baby dinosaur whose skin is a little rubbery and with a body that makes some odd noises from time to time (so does mine!).

The key to it all is feedback. We love feedback; to touch and see a response and to see a small being seek that touch from us. That's where Pleo excels. After a while you can almost see the wheels turning in his tiny little head as he tries to figure out how to trick you into petting him again next, or challenge you to another tug of war which you almost assuredly will let him win.

Who is Pleo for?

As I said in a previous blog post Pleo is a cuddlebot. If you're looking for sharks with friggin' laser beams on their heads, a battlebot, or a hyperactive rocket shooting space bot, then that's not what Pleo does. I'm not knocking those things, I love them too and I have the videos and projects to prove it. But there are times when I am tired, or I just don't want to think, or perhaps I just want a tiny dino buddy to play with and a friendly face to look at that's wearing a silly grin just for me. Times where I don't want to learn anything or even see the shadow of a remote control. At times like that I just want to play, and that's all Pleo wants to do too.

The Best Is Yet To Come

The most amazing thing about Pleo is that he is only going to get better over time. In order to make sure the external battery charger happened properly and in time for the holidays, Ugobe had to put one of Pleo's most fantastic features temporarily on hold; the ability for his personality to evolve over time. Now that Pleo is shipping they are working around the clock to bring that wonderful feature into fruition. Don't fret. Everyone who gets one of the Pleos shipping now will enjoy this upcoming software change. It will be a free download from Pleo World when it is ready.

Have you seen Steven Spielberg's movie, A.I.? It takes place some time in the future. A little boy android is bought by a couple to fill the void of their son, who is currently in a coma. When the prospective adopting mother gets the android boy home at first, she finds that the manufacturer has put it in a state where it will not bond with her emotionally yet; an evaluation period where she can decide whether to keep him or not. The android boy is clever, life-like, and versatile, but it is more friendly than loving and somewhat aloof. Later in the movie the woman decides to keep him and initiates the bonding process. She places her hand on the boy and says a few special keywords to him to trigger the bonding. In a scene that is guaranteed to melt your heart away, the little android boy's expression changes noticeably and says one word to her, filled with emotion as if he truly recognizes her for the very first time: "Mommy?". Immediately tears well up in her eyes as she once again hears that precious word she had almost forgotten the sound of.

Pleo's bonding mode is being crafted by the wizards at Ugobe even now. Some time soon Pleo's real personality will be coming to life for the first time to the delight of many happy owners. Since I have loved dinosaurs ever since I was a small boy, I am delighted with Pleo just as he is. Also, I have never seen such an adorable life-like artificial pet in my life. But I'll admit it tickles my heart to know that, the best is yet to come.


I have a video that I'm trying to edit of my first play session with Pleo, but just like my other videos it's really dark for some reason and I'm trying to fix it with Adobe Premiere. In the meantime, Engadget has a great little video and a bundle of truly beautiful pictures of Pleo too. I have included the video below. I'll be posting more very soon in the near future.
Also, you will find some links to other Pleo first look reviews and Engadget's article with pictures, below the video. Moonwalker and I both say hello to all of you out there and wish you many happy memories of baby dinosaur delight.


Here are some links to other first look reviews of Pleo on the web:

GearLog's Unboxing article (by PC Magazine editor Lance Ulanoff)
Engadget's Unboxing article (great video and pictures)
PCWorld's First Look article

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I'm french and won't be able to get a Pleo before mid-2008 at least. Knowing that other people already have one (even if it's not the *final* one) makes me a little jalous, but hey, my time will come.
I'm glad to hear that there are no major flaws in the little buddy.
I wish you merry hours playing with this lovable dinosaur. I hope your heart will not sink when you have to send it (him) back.
Mmf (my own version of a sigh)
I'm so excited, because I'm getting a Pleo for Christmas! He's just so cute, and it's amazing how he reacts to your actions and that he has emotions and feelings. I promise I'll take excellent care of my Pleo! I can't wait till Christmas!
My thirty year old son called last night saying "mom I know what I want for Christmas, a PLEO". It's the perfect pet for the person who is allergic to everything. He's hypoallergenic, always happy to see you. You plug him in, in the morning, unplug him when you get home and there is no mess to clean up. Hearing the little boy excitement in his voice was all I needed. PLEO will be under the tree this year.
SARAH HAMILTONs PLEO. I got my pleo on new years eve.
Yesterday pleo droped hes leafe
when i went to pick up his leafe
pleo opened his mouth for the first time so i could put the leafe back in his mouth.
I live in the UK and am getting my Pleo for my birthday, tomorrow. I can't wait - I have wanted one for months. I am so excited! But the only bummer is his battery only lasts an hour! Oh well!
I want one so bad they are awesome!!!! But the problem is pursuading parents! :-(
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