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Monday, April 16, 2007


I MET PLEO! - Part I

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Last week, I hopped on a jet to Boise, Idaho and had the amazing pleasure of meeting 5 members of the extraordinary Ugobe team and their lovable blue-eyed stealer of hearts, Pleo! I will be making more than one post on this wonderful event that has already made my year (and then some)! In this first part I will give you an overview of what it was like to meet Caleb Chung and crew and to play with the breathtaking baby dinosaur we know as Pleo. There will be only a few pictures of my visit this time because I want the video I made of Pleo to take center stage. I’ll be showing more of the pictures and additional video with each part.

Pleo - Love at First Sight

Pleo is adorable. Mercilessly cute. Soft green and yellow bumpy skin and big blue eyes that will melt your heart instantly. When the Ugobe team brought the cuddly little fellow into the coffee shop, I was already smitten. I also had the unusual problem of needing to tear my gaze away from Pleo to make at least some attempt to pay attention to the stunningly talented group of people from Ugobe. This situation grew worse when they placed the still dormant Pleo on the table and let me me hold him. I quickly wrapped my hands around his four little legs and did my best to maintain a decent conversation. Fortunately I am fast and managed to make a few quick grabs of Pleo’s irresistible baby booty without the Ugobe folk taking notice.

After some discussion about some of Pleo’s technical details and a few questions about me, the moment came to bring Pleo out of his slumber. I was glad because it is hard to pay attention when a loud voice in your head is screaming “THERE’S A BABY DINOSAUR ON THE TABLE!”. Even harder when another voice, which no adult should have in their head at a time like this, is whispering “Yeah there’s five of them, but come on, we can make it to the door with Pleo before they even get up!”. Fortunately sober maturity won out, barely, and I managed to get my camera and video camera working. But not before a minor problem with the video camera battery made my heart skip a few beats!

Pleo - Poetry In Motion

I will not even bother to try and give more than just a brief description of Pleo in full living moving color. The video at the end of this post does it a thousand times better. But I can tell you my first impressions once Caleb coaxed Pleo out of his slumber.

I was astonished.

Even with a bunch of wires hanging from his baby dino tummy, he was excruciatingly cute. The battery pack, which was still external since Pleo is not finished yet, did not diminish Pleo’s cuddliness at all. Instead it looked like a child’s blanket being dragged behind by a baby taking his first uncertain steps.

And what steps they were! With every gentle turn and shudder, Pleo’s tail was in constant motion like a Puppy both fascinated and made timid by his environment. This is where the artistry of the Ugobe magicians is so painfully sweet to witness. There’s a delicate detail to Pleo’s movements, a striking difference from any other artificial life form you have ever seen. That difference? Pleo’s movements emanate from the little baby dino emotions inside him, not from cold scripted logic.

The most poignant example of the effect Pleo has on me occurred when he had a brief problem with his front leg. Rather than watching calmly as they righted his little paw, I had to suppress the rising desire to cry out “Did you hurt him!!??”. I had to quickly remind myself that Pleo was still unfinished and was not injured. And what about Pleo’s voice? Pleo’s rich soulful voice is candy to the ears and wonderfully completes Ugobe’s cuddly little package of green and yellow sweetness.

Ugobe - Dreamers, Makers, Singers and Shapers[*]

My Favorite People And Baby Dinosaur!
From left to right, Caleb, John, Lisa, and Julia.
The meeting consisted of the following five members of the Ugobe team:

* Caleb Chung - Inventor and Cofounder of Ugobe

* John Sosoka - Chief Technology Officer

* Lisa Abbott - Director of Marketing

* Julia Demaree - Office Manager for Ugobe’s Eagle office

* André Zietsman - Producer

From the moment I saw Pleo gently cradled in Lisa’s loving hands and John’s big friendly smile as the pair led me into the coffee shop, I knew these were special people. The official name of the company is Ugobe, Inc., but they really ought to be called the Ugobe Family. Once Caleb, André, and Julia joined up with us, I was overwhelmed by a certain noticeable similarity. They really were like family, not in structure of face or body, but by something their faces all shared. A mood. A commonality of purpose and intent that you see in tightly knit families that is unmistakable. All of them carried an intensity and passion behind their eyes and posture that was nothing short of intimidating. When I look at Pleo I now see their reflection. Every hand crafted loving detail is a tiny glimpse into the soul of one of the Ugobe family and it shows.

Caleb is a passionate ball of energy, his mind moves at light speed and if thoughts were fuel he could power the entire state of Idaho personally. John is more staid with the same amount of intensity turned inwards. I had the feeling he was multitasking effortlessly between working out complex engineering problems in his head and following our conversation.

At one point in the meeting I made a comment about marketing and Lisa smacked open her notebook on to the table, pencil in hand, ready to capture the slightest bit of information that could help them create a better Pleo. ndré gazed frequently at Pleo in deep thought, as if an intricate movie was unfolding behind his eyes. Julia wrote furiously in her note book, a tireless worker who never seemed to stop thinking of the office yet was always ready with an easy smile and a pleasant thought. They are dedicated, warm, friendly, and mind numbingly talented.

Am I telling you this to impress you? No. Nothing will impress you until you have your own affectionate little Pleo squawking happily in your hungry arms. I am telling you this so you know that that your dream of having a loving little baby blue eyed dinosaur is in good hands. The Ugobe team knows what a huge responsibility you have entrusted to their capable hands. And now that I have met them I am more certain than ever that they have more than enough talent to meet the wonderful task of finishing Pleo.


My meeting with Ugobe and Pleo was nothing short of pure concentrated fun and joy. As I said before, my year has been made and then some. So where is the bitter amongst the sweet? There were three things that caused me some noticeable degree of sadness:

  1. Saying goodbye to Pleo. Obviously.

  2. Saying goodbye to the Ugobe family. Have you ever walked out of an incredibly fun party, more fun than you could have imagined? If so, there comes a moment where you have to watch the people that made you happy leave to return home. In this case, I watched a group of superbly talented people go back to the dream of busily creating adorable baby dinosaurs. In contrast, I went back to my job which as you can imagine, doesn’t quite match that adventure!

  3. There was one other thing but it requires a bit of explanation. Read on.

No Rest For The Wizards

There was one other unmistakable emotion that all the Ugobe folk shared, etched into their gaze. A slight yet readily apparent concern that cast a gentle shadow on all of their faces, right behind the eyes. In an instant I recognized it. It is the same look that parents of their first newborn baby carry. In a word, worry.

Is it the kind of worry that comes from something gone wrong or a poor choice having been made? Absolutely not. s I said before, the Ugobe team is more than well equipped for the road they travel. No it is the kind of worry that comes from only one place. From caring too much, from loving too hard, from desperately wanting to share your passionate creation with the world around you and an unbending desire to work tirelessly until it happens. I wanted to gather them all in a big hug and show them the image I carry so clearly in my mind, of millions of happy people and Pleos; playing, laughing, and living. But I knew it was futile. People that care that much will never stop worrying. Not now, not until Pleo is ready for us, not even after that. That is the price to pay for that kind of passion and talent.

As a writer I always want to end my articles with some grand sweeping dramatic statement. As usual, being an amateur writer, I don’t have one. Instead I will end this piece with a simple powerful truth; a single sentence whose importance outweighs everything else I have written today:


Visit our Pleo Dinosaur section more information about Pleo.

Video: Love Has A New Name. Pleo. *:

* Note: I have an inexpensive video camera. Combine that with the fact the coffee shop was noisy and that many people were talking together, and you will understand why I redid the audio. I did not want these elements to take away from the magic and awe I felt watching Pleo. However, the video is 100% Pleo and the sounds are too. The music was something I added to help convey just how I deeply I was moved at this powerful event in my life.

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Monday, April 09, 2007


Pleo contest winners have been announced!

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A big congratulations to the 10 people that just won a Pleo! Ugobe has just announced the 10 winners to their robotics companion essay contest. You can read their winning entries on the Ugobe web site now. As you will see I was lucky enough to be one of the winners and I am walking on air now. Although this makes the wait for Pleo's release even sweeter, it also makes it that much harder! I'll still be getting another Pleo anyways because I don't want Digger, that's what I've named my Pleo, to be lonely!

Also, I have a surprise coming for you in the next few days so keep a close watch on your E-mail! If you have not signed up for E-mail updates from my blog, now would be a good time to do so.

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