We’ve been anxiously awaiting the debut of the Pleo—the super high-tech robo-dino loaded with sensors and artificial intelligence—since we first reported on it last year. Here at Pop!Tech, I had a chance to chat with the Pleo’s inventor, Caleb Chung.
He brought along the latest prototype (it’s scheduled to go on sale this Christmas) which proceeded to graze, coo and whine adorably throughout the interview—Chung fed him my business card when he got hungry. I must say, the thing is really cute. And it's all in the little details: he sort of giggles when you chuck him under the chin, has big blue eyes that blink and get droopy when he gets tired, and so on. Chung says they're the most realistic-looking eyes ever placed in a toy and, looking at the Pleo, I believe him.
The other really amazing thing about the Pleo physically is its uniquely soft, rubbery skin. You can sort of scrunch it up in your hand, like puppy scruff, which I proceeded to do immediately. Interestingly, the skin was one of the hardest parts of the Pleo to make, Chung told me, because it basically makes the toy a walking rubber bag. "How do you get sound out of a rubber bag? How do you dissipate heat?"
Much has been made of the pet's artificial intelligence capabilities, but the cooler feature, I think, is the Pleo's programmable open-source computing platform. Want him to speak with your voice? Sleep less? Eat more? He's your pet and you can train him as you please. Hacks are welcome, says Chung. You could even take advantage of Pleo’s more than 33 sensory inputs—object detectors, infrared sensors, capacitive touch sensors, and more—turning him into a smoke detector or a surveillance cam for your home (my ideas, not Chung's). Making the Pleo quite the multi-talented Dino. And did I mention it’s cute? —Nicole Dyer