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Pleo Review - A Toy Robot Triumph? 112

Posted by Zonk
from the would-have-liked-a-nice-cuddly-raptor-better dept.
SkinnyGuy writes "PCMag has one of the first reviews of the new robotic dinosaur. Is it worth $350? I think this reviewer thinks so. 'What most people will have a hard time understanding is that Ugobe's Pleo is one of the most sophisticated personal home entertainment robotic devices on the market today. It easily outshines robot toys from Wow Wee and Hasbro, though both companies offer robots that cost less than half of what Pleo does. Its nearest competitor, the Wow Wee Robopanda, is a good gift for young children, but it's not nearly as adorable, animated, or intelligent as Pleo. (Yes, it can stand up and crawl, but it doesn't look very good doing it.)'"
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Pleo Review - A Toy Robot Triumph?

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  • Pleo abuse (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sketch (2817) on Friday December 07, 2007 @02:46PM (#21615515) Homepage
    Be sure and check out this video review of how the Pleo responds to torture...

    http://dvice.com/archives/2007/12/pleo_post.php?p=1&cat=undefined [dvice.com]
  • Wow... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RasputinAXP (12807)
    They couldn't have put "the reviewer says 'meh!'" in the summary?
  • See it in action (Score:4, Informative)

    by Itninja (937614) on Friday December 07, 2007 @02:48PM (#21615547) Homepage
    Thinkgeek has had these for sale for awhile (originally pre-order - currently out-of-stock). They have a pretty decent video hosted on their site. [thinkgeek.com] IMO, nothing can ever beat my Teddy Ruxpin..... /tears up
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Seems like a better robot would be some kind of humanoid, or at least something with an arm you could manipulate. Have a remote control with an LCD screen so that you can see where it's going, and you could probably get it to go to the fridge for you to fetch a beer. I don't think it would be too hard with stereoscopic vision to make it so that it could pick up an item in it's field of view by you just selecting it, via touch screen. I did a 2D version for a robotics class in university, a full 3D versio
      • by rvw (755107)

        I did a 2D version for a robotics class in university, a full 3D version wouldn't be difficult. Much more useful than a dinosaur, which can't pick thing up.
        Yeah right. And you are now developing this robot in your parents' basement, not?
    • It's still in "pre-order" status. I'm on the waiting list to purchase one, and have yet to hear anything about it.
      • by Grant29 (701796) *
        Where did you put your name down on a list. The Pleo Dinosaur [pleodinosaur.net] from amazon looks like it might ship before Christmas. The national geographic site shows a 12/28 ship date.
    • Just a note if anyone still has a Teddy Ruxpin, if you put the tape in backwards it would play backwards and you would have a teddy ruxpin speaking in Tongues. This was always fun to do to the display models in stores.
    • by holistah (1002858)
      I know it's offtopic... but it seems like everything is always out of stock at think geek... any time I have money to buy something, it is out of stock...and to get an email when it's back in stock doesn't help either, because things are only in stock 1-2 days and then out again for 2-3 more weeks...
  • by greg_barton (5551) * <greg_barton@noSpam.yahoo.com> on Friday December 07, 2007 @02:49PM (#21615555) Homepage Journal
    Zeno [zenosworld.com] can't get here soon enough for me. :)
    • Looks great, but I hear that the current model only walks in place. They can't seem to get him to move forward.
  • robopanda (Score:3, Funny)

    by gad_zuki! (70830) on Friday December 07, 2007 @02:49PM (#21615565)
    I'm a little much amused by the fact that the robotpanda (what a great name) comes with the following:

    No remote controller needed
    Realistic actions and interactive personality
    Direct touch sensor and sound control
    Interactive stories and games
    Advanced artificial intelligence and awareness
    Recognizes and talks to his own little toy panda (included)

    Yes, that's right. It comes with its own little stuffed panda. In the video it hugs it. Christ, is that creepy.
    • Kids like it when their toys model some of their behavior, including having toys - just last month a friend of mine had to make a tiny, tiny owl plushie for her son's owl plushie!
  • by PHAEDRU5 (213667) <instascreed&gmail,com> on Friday December 07, 2007 @02:51PM (#21615617) Homepage
    Not terribly impressive. But maybe evolution will take care of that.
    • Wake me when this thing can play the violin.
    • by tsjaikdus (940791)
      > Not terribly impressive. But maybe evolution will take care of that.

      I hope you mean a giant astroid.
  • Pointless (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Seumas (6865) on Friday December 07, 2007 @02:55PM (#21615665)
    I'm all for the advancement of robotics and if that means reaching the general public through consumer devices as a means to an end, then so be it.

    However, these "robots" that we keep seeing are entirely pointless and ridiculous. They tend to be at least $300 or $400 and they're nothing more than slightly beefed up versions of the little remote control robot you got under the christmas tree as a little kid that beeped and flashed lights. They do nothing useful, are glitchy and . . . talk about "uncanny valley".

    The Pleo seems like something that is briefly amusing, but for $350 I could buy a couple Roombas and they actually perform a useful function other than looking cute.

    Are we supposed to be impressed by a goofy looking dino robot, just because it can detect when another pleo is around it and it can sense when someone is petting it versus choking it? How can this even qualify as a "robot"? If you have money to burn and your child is likely to be suckered into the cheap gimmicks that form these types of robots, then I guess go for it. . . . I've seen the pleo in action and if the idea is that you buy one or two of these to substitute for pets, then . . . well - let's just say having a pleo for a pet is like having blow up doll for a girlfriend. Not that I know from personal experience.
    • by jpellino (202698)
      Actually from recent feedback, the Roombas will be just the opposite of the Pleo - briefly useful then endlessly amusing (as you clean them, or try and get support, or watch it as you put the same piece of dirt down in front of it several times to make sure it gets picked up - actually I think that last one is from a standup routine that got laughs of recognition from the audience).

      AIBOs have seen their day but they got a lot more people "ready" for robots and from my experience like LEGO and VEX got a lot
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Belial6 (794905)
        The one problem that I see with all of these pet replacement toys is that they not one of them can recharge themselves. If you have to pick it up and plug it into the wall, it is still just a toy. The obvious solution is to give these toys a 'bed'. Then use wireless induction to recharge the batteries. Plenty of people have real pets that sleep most of the day, so if it takes 8 hours of charging for 1 hour of action, there wouldn't be a problem. Pets are actually a pretty good place to introduce robots
        • Actualy, IIRC the Aibo recharged itself on a little mat that it would look for when the power got low. Pity Sony axed it... I'd rather have the Aibo division than all that money spent on rootkits and DRM.
          • by Belial6 (794905)
            If it did find it's own mat for self charging, it is a shame that they did not advertise that. I have never heard of that feature, and have read reviews that complained that it didn't run very long before it had to be plugged in. A self charging feature could have made the difference on whether I would have considered buying one or not.
            • I saw it in lots of reviews - the charging stick: http://www.mactech.com/articles/mactech/Vol.19/19.11/Toys/index.html [mactech.com]

              "A recent product has been the AIBO Recognition stick which will allow AIBO to recharge itself when it needs power by going over to the charging station (sold separately) and sit down to charge. When AIBO is charged, it will get up and wander around as normal. The new ERS-7 robots are taking the AIBO concept further and include extra sensors (electro-static sensors that do not require pushin
              • by Belial6 (794905)
                Now, that is interesting. Thanks for the link. It is a real shame the they didn't advertise this feature more. It sounds like it was something that was added later in the product life, after most of the reviews had stopped.
        • by jpellino (202698)
          I dunno, my cat runs around for about 3 hours a day and sleeps the rest. Seems pretty realistic!

          We did have a Gemini robot which could find its charger, and IIRC Roombas do to. Should be easy.

    • I'm holding off until they come out with the pleasure model.
      • by tcolberg (998885)
        A Pleo Pleasure Model???!! It doesn't even have hands! I don't know I could get down with a robotic dinosaur, let me know when it comes in "humanoid".
    • Just so.

      I'm so tired of these animatronic gizmos that are being called "robots".

      Roomba is a robot. It does something useful.

      A doll that can bleep, bloop or wiggle a bit when it hears a noise or bumps into something is not a robot.

      None of this stuff seems much more impressive than the Big Trak ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigtrak [wikipedia.org] ) I had as a kid 30 years ago.

      I am not impressed.
    • by Kim0 (106623)
      I too have not had a blow up dinosaur for a girlfriend.
  • When all is said and done, your kid will have more fun playing with the box than the actual toy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by BobNET (119675)

      When all is said and done, your kid will have more fun playing with the box than the actual toy.

      That's okay. The toy will also have more fun playing with the box than it will playing with your kid.

  • by Otter (3800)
    Is it worth $350? I think this reviewer thinks so.

    That at least provides some context to evaluate the claim that no one but lunatic fanboys will pay $400 for a Kindle because Amazon might go bankrupt some day.

  • ...it had better give me a happy ending.
  • It's just a pet robot for people who aren't cool enough to build their own.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Friday December 07, 2007 @03:12PM (#21615927) Journal
    PRICE... lets give an example with something we can all relate to (except for the two girls who read /.) Lego. Even the older Lego is going to set you back $20 USD for a motor. 5 motors in a robot invention =~ $100 USD. For accurate and simplified control, it is likely that some kind of R/C hobby servo, or a derivative at cheaper cost is used. The price of that does not drop sharply over time due to volume purchases. A digital servo would double the costs roughly per motor. The parts to make cute little animal robots are NOT cheap, and I'm only talking about low end parts here. It amuses me at times to think that I have some simplistic robots at home (made of Lego) that if bought piece by piece, would cost on the order of about $450 ~ $500.

    If you ask any robotics hobbyist, $350 USD for a completed and programmed robot.. well, that's a good price. I don't see the price point dropping much if you are going to have a really functional robotic toy thingy animal friend.

    Warning: Some (well all) robotics hobbyists will value the store bought robotic toy on how useful it is once they get it home and disassemble it to use in their own creations. If it is a veritable horn of plenty of usable sensors and parts... yeah $350 is a great price. You may have to guide their scope on value in the conversation.
    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Friday December 07, 2007 @03:31PM (#21616155)
      Well, the robotpanda is 150 dollars, which is less than half of the asking price of the pleo. The robopanda, like the rest of the toys from that company are pretty simplistic and fun. I think this design is a better idea than the pleo/aibo idea of a super complex computer driven "pet simulator" that costs a lot more than people are willing to spend on the gimmick.

      I'd rather be able to buy a toy robot I can say "read me a bedtime story" than one that has realistic moods and realitic poops. I understand the popularity of the furby, but that was mostly to the toddler to pre-5th grade crowd. Not to mention the price point on the furby was pretty good too.

      I think people want something that actually does something. If someone asks me what my pet robot does I cuold say "well he reads me a story if I ask. Or he reads me my email if I ask." Not "he simulates the moods of a biological pet." I think the tomogatchi school of robotics is pretty dead in the consumer world. The pleo is a nice gimmick, but thats all it is. At that price its a market failure from the get-go. I could get a roomba and a robopanda for that price.
      • by dangitman (862676)

        I could get a roomba and a robopanda for that price.

        Are you planning to breed them? Brings a new twist to an od phrase - "Hey you two, get a roomba!"

    • (except for the two girls who read /.)

      What? is that supposed to be funny? More like stupid and sexist. Grow up.

      • by zappepcs (820751) on Friday December 07, 2007 @03:38PM (#21616243) Journal
        No, silly woman, I was fishing for a "you insensitive clod" comment... you must be new here
        • Now to locate and ident the second girl who reads slashdot...Dude. where's my pleo?
        • by graft (556969)
          This is not even funny on a meta level. "Ironic sexism" is still sexism. Seriously, get out of the nineteenth century, and stop dragging everyone else back there with you. I know girls who could kick your ass at linear algebra. And, by the way, until "girls don't belong here" stops being routine behavior in geek circles and women don't have to face a constant uphill battle to participate in geek online culture and, more importantly, to hold tech jobs, I think your sort of comment is far worse than trolling.
          • http://xkcd.com/322/ [xkcd.com]

            Having linked to that, I think you're taking this way, way too seriously and I would like to remind you that other people might laugh at things you don't find funny.
      • You insensitive clod, my father was stupid and sexist!

        (sorry...couldn't resist)

    • by ahoehn (301327) <andrew&hoe,hn> on Friday December 07, 2007 @04:02PM (#21616565) Homepage
      But compared to the cost of owning a real pet, a $350 one time fee isn't bad at all.

      We just bought a rabbit, and in the first year of ownership I'm sure we'll spend more than $350. We got out of the pet store for ~$100 with a cage and a starter kit, then spent about another ~$100 on a couple months worth of bedding, food and treats. When you add on the the ~$150 we'll have to spend to neuter the thing, we're already at the price of the Pleo for less than a year of about the easiest-to-care for cuddleable pet you can get.

      Even the Pleo won't be quite the same as a rabbit, but the Pleo won't pee under the piano. At least, the Pleo 1.0 won't pee under the piano.
      • by smoker2 (750216)
        Why do you want to neuter 1 rabbit ? Is there a local risk of rampant feral rabbits impregnating your pet ?
        BTW, rabbits don't generally like being "cuddled", so you had better get its front teeth and rear claws removed too.
        Some people should only be allowed robots, they don't know enough about real animals.
        • by ahoehn (301327)

          Why do you want to neuter 1 rabbit ? Is there a local risk of rampant feral rabbits impregnating your pet ?

          While I doubt our rabbit will be impregnating any of the local feral rabbit population, (and doubt even more that he'll become impregnated, since, you know, he's a dude) neutered rabbits won't mark their territory (AKA pee all over everything), are less likely to chew destructively, are generally more pleasant, and are likely to live longer. See the rabbit faq [rabbit.org].

          BTW, rabbits don't generally like being "cuddled", so you had better get its front teeth and rear claws removed too.

          As for the cuddling, I can only speak from personal experience. If we ignore our rabbit for too long while he's hopping around the living room, h

      • Hell, my wifes guppies have probably cost me nearly a grand over the last three years - between two tank upgrades, filter and pump upgrades, not to mention consumables. But they make her happy, so it's money well spent. (Not to mention I can hardly complain given what I spend on my hobbies.)
      • by Deagol (323173)
        Find a local farm/ranch/feed store. A 50-pound bag of rabbit feed will set you back $10, and maybe the same cost for a 6 cubic feet of compressed shavings. That $20 should last the typical pet rabbit for 6 months or more, assuming your treats are veggie scraps from the kitchen. A goat-sized salt and/or mineral lick (couple of pounds, I think) will cost a couple of bucks and be a much better bargain than those little ones at Pet Smart. A ~75-pound bale of grass or alfalfa hay will be $10 (+/- $5 dependin
    • It's a huge move in the right direction. The Aibo failed on the market place despite its appeal because it was $3500.
    • Well, the new lego robotics kit is around $200-$250.
      • by zappepcs (820751)
        Go buy one, and build something that has five motors in it..... That price tag is the entry fee, not the cost of a final robotic creation that has five motors in it.
        • I believe it can only handle 3 motors, so you'd have to buy another RCX and more motors ($$$). Most people don't build their own Robosapien, just cool stuff like brick sorters, walkers, line followers, sumo bots, etc.
  • by Fallingcow (213461) on Friday December 07, 2007 @03:14PM (#21615939) Homepage
    A robot trumph? So, what you're trying to say is...

    This was a triumph.

    I'm making a note here: huge success.

    I really can't express my satisfaction.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > A robot trumph? So, what you're trying to say is...
      >
      > This was a triumph.
      > I'm making a note here: huge success.
      > I really can't express my satisfaction.

      THE TRAINING LEAF IS A LIE!

    • by pcgabe (712924)
      I'm not even angry.

      I'm being so sincere right now.~

      (~ [slashdot.org])
    • State and local statutory regulations prohibit your robotic companion pet from simply remaining here, alone and companionless. You must euthanize it.
  • Get a Dog (Score:2, Informative)

    by SpaceAmoeba (1159183)
    Dogs are 10^8% better.
    • by JustNiz (692889)
      ...if you don't mind greasy hairy sofas and a smelly house.
    • Dogs are 10^8% better.
      10 ^ .08 = 1.2
      That's really not all that much better, and robots never require you to hold a warm bag of feces in your hand.
  • by ueltradiscount (1195109) on Friday December 07, 2007 @03:15PM (#21615953)
    This one would probably give the whole family nightmares... http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x25zzd_babyrobot-made-in-japan_news [dailymotion.com]
  • Oblig. (Score:2, Funny)

    ...but can you chase it around with a vacuum cleaner?
  • While it's cute and kinda cool and all, wake me when they make one that can plug itself into the wall to recharge.
    • iRobot make an "iRobot Create" robot variant of their Roomba robo-vacuum-cleaner that can do that. As I understand it it's basically the same platform/capabilities as the Roomba except that it has a control interface and doesn't do the vacccum thing. The self-charge capability certainly makes it pretty unique and attractive for an always-on home robot (toy or research or anywhere inbetween).

      http://www.irobot.com/sp.cfm?pageid=289 [irobot.com]
  • by adwarf (1002867) on Friday December 07, 2007 @04:01PM (#21616553)
    It doesn't seem like their development kit (which I can't even find an official reference to on their website) can do much. That makes it useless to people that want to do more than play with it until someone finds a way to crack it to run custom code.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It never ceases to amaze me how sort sighted and narrow minded the slashdot crowd can be. Without ever seeing one , playing with one, reading about one, or learning anything about the company, the software, the hardware, or the goals behind it, these amazing prognosticators pronounce it 'Yet another stupid, overpriced toy'. It boggles the mind.

      Their 'development kit' ( well at least SOMEBODY read a little about them ) is an off the shelf scripting language where you can create new behaviors or modify exis
      • by adwarf (1002867)
        The Linux title is a joke I don't really car if it does run it or not. Don't get my post wrong I am impressed with its abilities, but in the end I want to be able to customize it more. Not just add new abilities (again so far they haven't mentioned their development kit at all on their website, is it still even going to be released?), but customize the learning algorithms and sensor interactions (in one article I read it said there would be extremely limited ability to interact with some sensors). I'm n
    • by Atacama93 (415662)
      Best info I could find quickly was an interview [robotsrule.com] at robotsrule.com with John Sosoka, CTO of Ugobe. Here's a couple of the more relevant quotes:

      "Pleo does have his USB port and an SD card to allow Pleo to be updated."

      "In order to play with voice recognition you have to write it in C or assembly code. While possible, it won't be supported by the PDK tools at first, although we won't do anything to stop you. We want to get the controls in to let people to quickly be able to play with the sensors and motors, and
      • I wonder if it'd be possible to interface to a USB wi-fi card? If it would be possible to take all the sensor (incl. camera) readings and send them to a desktop PC via wi-fi, and return control informtation to drive the beastie, then it'd make an excellent research / serious robot hobby platform.
  • That is the question...
  • Until the robot gets marked down because you know it will. Once it's around $100 or so I'll buy it then tear it apart to see what makes it tick, then make my own enhancements. Should be interesting since I'm in the process of taking a cheap little robotic dog and enhancing it with an Arduino doing the heavy lifting.
  • In case you haven't seen it already, the other day boingboing had a link to a Pleo torture video [boingboing.net]. It's actually somewhat disturbing, as the little robot dinosaur seems to make whimpering noises if you dangle it by its tail, and choking noises if you grab its neck. I found this quote from boingboing quite interesting:

    So when I watched this video of a couple of guys from Dvice torturing the Pleo and making it whimper pathetically, I felt uncomfortable, even though I knew it was absolutely ridiculous to feel that way.

    My wife didn't want to watch the video. She said that even though the Pleo was incapable of feeling anything, watching the video is "bad for your psyche," and that the people who hit the Pleo were damaging their pscyhes, too.

    I concur with one of the comments on dVice, that I'm rather in disbelief that the guys who made the video work for the SciFi channel, and yet passed up on an opportunity while choking the Pleo

    • More to the point, it's not like they took a hammer to it, or kicked it around the room like a football. They dropped it maybe 18 inches and shook it lightly, and it *died*. A $350 robot dinosaur was rendered inactive by treatment far more gentle than it might expect to receive at the hands of most small children. Even if attempting to treat it well, children are capable of being clumsy and forgetful. And if they're not attempting to treat it well - if they're going to throw it down in a temper tantrum
  • I like pleo (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AndOne (815855)
    My girlfriend got one of the Pleo preorders and I have to say I'm quite amused by it. The fact that it has an SD slot so you can load your own programs onto it and a usb cable for firmware updates really appeals to the geek in me. Honestly I'm looking forward to the proposed updates for pleo and to getting to play with its SDK. Sure it's gimmicky but it's alot of robot parts and it's cute to boot. It's also pretty fun to watch the thing walk around and explore.

    To the 'is it useful' crowd... well it
  • Personally, I think the ttechnical aspects of the Pleo might be almost enough to create an adequate robotic cat. Granted it won't be jumping on random surfaces, but there's little reason one couldn't sleep, sit, stand, bathe, knead surfaces, scratch, stare, swat at stuff, meow and purr. Such a thing would be ideal for pet therapy applications without the drawbacks of shedding, using a litter box or feeding.

    There was a previous attempt at this in Japan about a decade ago called "NeCoRo", but it was one of th
  • "I remember how Sony's AIBO robot dog could actually hunt for its charging station when it was running out of power. On the other hand, it was often too far from the base to make it and ended up temporarily dead on the kitchen floor."
  • It's a neat idea, if a bit historically inaccurate, where is the saddle for Jesus?

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