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Robotics Businesses Toys

Ugobe, Maker of Pleo, Files For Bankruptcy 79

Posted by kdawson
from the move-to-idaho-and-look-what-happens dept.
AshboryBassPlayer writes "Ugobe has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy — i.e., not reorganization but liquidation. We first discussed the company's Pleo robotic dinosaur toy in 2006. According to the company, 100,000 Pleos were sold in 2008. CEO Caleb Chung is optimistic about the auction value of intellectual property that Ugobe holds. Pleo featured 14 servo joints, a camera, and an SD Card for storage. The final street prices were commonly between $275 and $350, much higher than an earlier hoped-for price point under $200."
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Ugobe, Maker of Pleo, Files For Bankruptcy

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  • Pleo? Ugobe? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by snarfies (115214)

    I have never seen the words "Pleo" or "Ugobe" until today. I would suggest that nobody else has either - which makes Chapter 7 inevitable.

    That, and even if I HAD heard of either, even their hoped-for $200 is way too much for a toy, I'm sorry.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday April 24, 2009 @12:54PM (#27703587) Homepage
      Please destroy your Geek card now. You are not worthy.

      They are (were) really neat, really stupidly expensive toys targeted at the wrong demographic. Of course they were going to fail.

      If they would have listened to me and put lasers in them ... who knows? World Dominance perhaps?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Yup.... cuz not hearing about some obscure toy that didn't even last two years makes you unworthy of being a geek.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        Neat? They were only a step or two more advanced than those "talking dolls" like barney and tickle me elmo.

        They most certainly weren't worth the price.

        They might have been about as advanced as those robotic vacuum cleaners (except some of those robot vacuum cleaners can at least charge themselves).
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          >They were only a step or two more advanced than those >"talking dolls" like barney and tickle me elmo.

          My friend, you are insane. They are/were light years beyond any of that. These guys had a full behavioral and learning model, not a cyclic set of preprogrammed responses to button pushing. To say nothing of a 'bump/turn left/bump/turn left path finding algorithm and a low battery, follow an infra red beacon' pattern.

          Yes, it was a first generation implementation, but it is the first and ( so far )

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by GaryOlson (737642)
            If the pet dispersed a local concentration of nucleus bonded electrons on the synthetic fiber stranded floor covering, would he learn to make his physical presence approach zero?
          • Any actual evidence that the pleo's AI is really as impressive as you imply? Is the pleo even able to build up a map of its surroundings? At least some robotic vacuum cleaners on the market do (they may not do a good job of it, but they appear to do that mapping ;) ).

            Maintaining a model of a simple external world is a very basic level of "Intelligence". Predicting that simple world is the next level. Being able to model and predict other similar creatures (or even "self") shows a higher level of "Intelligen
      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday April 24, 2009 @01:55PM (#27704459) Journal

        Please destroy your Geek card now. You are not worthy.

        That's a little harsh for a first-time offense.

        I move that he must hand in his Geek card, but can apply for reinstatment at a later date provided that:

        1. He has disassembled and reassembled a Cleo without referring to the documentation
        2. He can recite the Wrath of Khan, the Princess Bride, and the Holy Grail from memory
        3. He provides proof that he has lived in his mother's basement for at least 6 months prior to the date of the application.

        Then we can vote on his reinstatement.

        Seriously, though... What if he's a theoretical mathematics geek? Then he'd be like, 4 layers away from being required to know about this robot. Did you bother to think of that?!

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ColdWetDog (752185)

          Seriously, though... What if he's a theoretical mathematics geek? Then he'd be like, 4 layers away from being required to know about this robot. Did you bother to think of that?!

          That's true. I was a bit harsh. He might be able to faultlessly recite the entire dialog of every single Star Trek show. Hell, he might even understand String Theory (or pretend to at any rate).

          Maybe he should just fold and spindle his card for now. Mutilate it later when he claims to never have watched "Serenity".

      • by MBCook (132727)

        No kidding. Pleo was amazing when it came out. I've got one and it is very cute and quite interesting to people. I'm glad they got to exist for a while. It's a pitty the economy killed them (not that it would have been easy otherwise).

        I have my Pleo owner card in my wallet. #120000009280.

      • A couple days ago these things were on Amazon [amazon.com] for $89.

        Looks like they decided to jack the price up because of all the publicity.

    • It was on /. (Score:5, Informative)

      by langelgjm (860756) on Friday April 24, 2009 @12:56PM (#27703617) Journal

      No, I remember reading about the Pleo robotic dinosaur, last year, I think. There was one review where the reviewers tortured it, [dvice.com] and a /. article. [slashdot.org]

    • Re:Pleo? Ugobe? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by EdZ (755139) on Friday April 24, 2009 @01:01PM (#27703685)
      IIRC, there were at least two demonstrations of it prior to it actually being sold. Both used the EXACT SAME scripted series of actions,and both were claimed to be unscripted reactions to the environment.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      Do you have any idea how many chicks I've lured back to my mom's basement with the line, "Hey baby, wanna see my Pleo?" I assure you, $200 is a small price to pay for a bad-ass chick magnet like this robotic dinosaur!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by TheBig1 (966884)

        Do you have any idea how many chicks I've lured back to my mom's basement

        My guess.... zero. ;-)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by elrous0 (869638) *
        Probably about as many chicks as I've scored by telling them I have the first season of Battlestar Galactica on HD-DVD.
    • I agree. No one who has sold 100000 toys for about $300 each is, has, or will ever go broke. Either they are lying, self-delusional (their sales department sleezos have invented sales to get undeserved commissions), or they have stolen the money and defrauded their investors, or they are completely incompetent in business. Or they have been paying fat and happy robotics engineers $120/hour for years to design toys that can move pieces of colored silicone into cute funny faces. Probably a combination of

    • by epr (826666)
      Funny thing is that I attended a presentation on robots today, at which this was one of the ones they talked (a little) about. And now they're being canceled. Must be cosmic irony at work, because I'd really want one.
    • Pleo Ugobe? Didn't he take over the Congo?
    • Are you sure it isn't a new Linux distro?
    • by Spleen (9387)

      I believe there are many in this community that are willing to spend $200 on a toy. If I were to purchase a new video card for ~$200 to play games on my computer, I would consider that a toy. All the current generation gaming consoles are also in that range or above. Some may not consider them toys, but I do.. and so does dictionary.com [reference.com]

    • I have never seen the words "Pleo" or "Ugobe"

      Dude who made the Furbie was aiming for another hit, they ran an article in Wired a few years ago. He also happens to live in Boise, Idaho. Which along with ailing Micron and HP centers constitutes the majority of Idaho's tech industry, lol.

  • Am I the only one? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Penguinoflight (517245) on Friday April 24, 2009 @12:51PM (#27703545) Homepage Journal
    It seems like every other day I see a newly released product introduced at a 20-30% premium above initially announced price. Soliciting interest by being optimistic about cost seems to be the norm, but I wonder if these projects would be more successful if they were honest about expected prices.
    • by decipher_saint (72686) on Friday April 24, 2009 @01:07PM (#27703773) Homepage

      I've seen how this unfolds in software, I don't know about toys, but it usually goes somethnig like:

      10 Boss to Client: It will cost X and will make date Y!
      20 Boss to IT managers: We need it by Y!
      30 Developers work overtime
      40 Boss to IT managers: Keep costs down, we need to have it meet X by Y
      50 IT managers' head explodes from paradox overload
      60 "Rush job" turns into Poo, UAT date slips
      70 Spit and bailing twine fail in UAT
      80 Deadline Y whooshes by..
      90 PANIC MODE LOOP GOTO 10

    • I'm sure that they have to give an estimated price point when they look for investors and that without being optimistic they would probably have had a much harder time getting funding. The problem here is that they should have just kept their mouths shut about price when talking to the general public until they knew what it would, actually, cost.

    • The problems many startups make is they don't realize how much stuff really costs, and how pennies start to dig in the bottom line.
      I could build myself a PC with $500 worth of parts where Dell or HP would sell it for $750 still at near break even prices. Employees, Benefits, Power, Building Costs, Shipping, Inventory management, Deprecated Parts in Inventory. It really adds up.

    • by drizek (1481461)
      I think the problem is usually that they overestimate the amount of enthusiasm that there is for the product, and figure they can move the price up around the launch date. Maybe they aren't doing it to rip people off, it could just be that they figure cutting costs and streamlining their production isn't important since people will pay whatever they charge. Asus charging $400 for the eee when they initially announced it at $200 though I think is just plain them ripping people off after building up a huge a
    • They probably worked out the costs if they sold >1M. They sold 100k, so never reached those economies of scale.

      That's a shame, but at least they were thinking big. If they started out planning to sell 100k, they wouldn't have bothered.

      I wish them luck in what they do next. Pleo is still unique.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 24, 2009 @12:52PM (#27703561)

    It's the second time they're going extinct!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      Yeah, but the first time, it was their own fault. [ias.ac.in]
    • That's already happened. Consider the poor brontosaur. Once, it held its head high as the largest land animal ever. Then, because it was found to be the same as the already existing apatosaur, the brontosaurus ceased to be. Also, at some point an bronto/apato head was mounted on a brachiosarus, tallest of the dinosaurs, confusing the name still more. Now they've found supersaurs, titanosaurs, ultrasaurs and who knows what else, so the claim as the largest is gone. The brontosaur is extinct biologicall
  • Crap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mc1138 (718275) on Friday April 24, 2009 @12:54PM (#27703583) Homepage
    I'm not saying its not a cool idea, but really, all a kid wants is a dinosaur he can pick up, and then smash against other dinosaurs. Sometimes its possible to be too complex, and too expensive for parents.
    • Re:Crap (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday April 24, 2009 @01:33PM (#27704111) Homepage

      I don't think this was meant for kids. They marketed this at conferences like GDC and CES, which target geeks. Probably the geeks would buy them, claiming it was for the kids. :-)

      • by King_TJ (85913)

        That might be, but if so, it was a terrible business plan and as an earlier poster said, Chapter 7 was inevitable.

        I actually do remember the release of the Pleo and saw a couple in stores. Everyone looked at it for about 10 seconds, saw the price tag and said "Ouch!", walking away quickly.

        Especially in THIS economy, people can't justify hundreds of dollars spent on a gimmicky toy, which is what Pleo amounts to. I'm as big a geek as anybody, but I still look for products that actually do something cool I t

      • by gad_zuki! (70830)

        >I don't think this was meant for kids.

        Then why was it for sale at toys r us? I think the problem is that kids really dont want an jerky and delicate electric toy when imagination works much better. Adults dont like locked down non-programmable robots. I think the people at Woowee and Ugobe still dont realize how unnatural these things are. Their loud servos and jerky motions really says "dont buy me." Especially at $349 clams.

        I was thinking of getting the robopanda for my neice, but its just a terrib

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...would end in extinction.

  • Pleo [wikipedia.org]. I just hate links that look like they're about a particular subject that keep you going in a circle.
  • by camperdave (969942) on Friday April 24, 2009 @01:15PM (#27703877) Journal
    What the world needs right now is another Heathkit Hero style DIY robot kit, not a $200 "one trick pony" toy.
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday April 24, 2009 @01:17PM (#27703921) Homepage

    That was expected; it was predicted in Robotics Business Review last month. The price point was far too high.

    WowWee's RoboReptile [wowwee.com] is almost as advanced, and has a price point around $90.

    WowWee is a company to watch. They have a broad line of reasonably good robotic toys at modest price points. They even sell a fembot. [wowwee.com]

    • So, what made Pleo so expensive? The WowWee thing looks not quite but almost as sophisticated...
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, the wowee bot is nowhere near as cool as Pleo ( nor as advanced for those who want to make a distinction ).

      Pleo was probably doomed because they did a very bad job of communicating that to the public at large.

      Pleo came with a usb port for field firmware upgrades from the factory, he also came with a free downloadable sandbox and a fully documented, newbie accessible scripting language that provided access to all of his drives and behaviors. You could create new ones, or modify existing ones, write them

    • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Friday April 24, 2009 @03:43PM (#27705763) Homepage

      It's not the same.

      I've got a Pleo, and I love the little thing. There are many things that go into why I like it so much.

      First, it's cute. I don't think that can be overstated. While WowWee has made some neat stuff (like the first RoboSpaian), they go for the high-tech-futuristic look. Pleo was designed to be about the size of a real juvenile dinosaur. He looks cute and inviting. The skin was designed to simulate the correct texture (or at least as best we can guess).

      Second is interaction with Pleo. While he is limited once an adult, their "hatching" sequence is a ton of fun and really helps make the toy. First Pleo does next to nothing, then it complains and tries to move around. It slowly gets better and better at walking and other actions until it's an "adult". This makes it feel much more alive than a "turn it on and it's ready to kill" type robot. He doesn't just stop moving to save battery, he goes to sleep and acts the part. When you make a loud noise or touch him, he slowly wakes up again.

      I can't see enough to tell from their site, but I really wonder if the RoboReptile has as many joints as a Pleo.

      They aim at different markets. One's a killer robot toy, the other is a "living" baby dinosaur toy. Pleo was awesome, but it was never going to succeed. It was sort of sold as a geek toy to help subsidize the development of LifeOS to put in other toys until they came up with something cheaper. I don't think they could have succeeded except during an economic boom. I'm not surprised they didn't last, but I'm glad I have my amazing little Pleo.

      • by pisymbol (310882)

        I totally agree, I have one and even signed up for the developer kit. It was an interesting architecture to say the least, they had a LifeOS platform that run a C-like scripting language under a VM called Pawn. The architects I believe stated that Pawn provided a very fast execution environment but made *programming* simple enough for hobbyist and even non-geek types.

        My issues were mainly they didn't release anything after the Pleo itself. I mean they were some holiday behavioral editions but that's abo

    • by tuxicle (996538)

      They even sell a fembot. [wowwee.com]

      But will it survive in a manbot's manputer's world?

  • Kid tested? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SnarfQuest (469614) on Friday April 24, 2009 @01:23PM (#27703995)

    It's obvious that they never did any "kid testing" on their toy. If you give a kid a dinosour toy, he will do the obvious kid thing: Pick it up by the tail and repeatably bash it against his toy truck.

    $275 is too much to spend on a hammer, unless it's for government use.

    • by MBCook (132727)

      They never aimed the product at your average 8 year old. It really seemed like a toy of "older" boys (24+) who have money. I don't think it was ever aimed at children. They wanted to do that later, but they knew their initial product couldn't work in that market for a ton of reasons (price being the main one).

  • I know this is Slashdot, but at least try to write a decent summary. I had to read the article just to be able to tell what the summary was trying to say.
  • I tried the Femisapien's autonomous mode. It took my wallet, bought all kinds of batteries that it can't even use, then came home and told me that "we" need to buy a bigger house.

    I took it back to the store and exchanged it for the Robosapien.

    • Yes, I though mine was defective until I found out that they're actually programmed that way. I'm waiting for an open source alternative so I can adjust the code to modify troublesome behaviors.
    • Flamebait?! (Score:2, Flamebait)

      Did I mention that it always wanted to talk about our Relationship?

  • Move to Idaho? (Score:3, Informative)

    by CR0WTR0B0T (944711) on Friday April 24, 2009 @02:21PM (#27704787)
    Ugobe was a bad business plan. It has nothing to do with Idaho, which is a business friendly place [cnbc.com]. If anything, company employees would benefit from moving to Boise/Eagle from San Jose to enjoy lower commute times [payscale.com] compared to San Jose commute times [payscale.com], a lower cost of living [bestplaces.net], lower crime rates [bestplaces.net], and ready access to outdoor recreation such as skiing [bogusbasin.org].

    It's not perfect, but I live here and love it. I'm not part of the CVB, but I welcome any well-run business fed up with their home state to take a look at Boise. It's a great place to live.

  • There is a nice TED talk about Pleo [ted.com]. Unfortunately the thing comes with proprietary software and you can only customise it using motion profiles and sounds. I am not sure how much this has affected sales, but you can get much more hacker friendly robots from Robosavvy.com [robosavvy.com]. I am still waiting for a walking robot with onboard ARM processor and Linux, actuators with hackable controllers, sensors (resolvers, accelerometer, maybe gyroscope, contact sensors). It doesn't even need to be able to pick up objects. Th
  • 1) Create Robotic Dinosaur
    2) Go extinct.
    3) ???
    4) Profit!

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