Have you ever longed to be transported back to a simpler time when dinosaurs ruled the earth? Unfortunately this isn’t a review for a time machine to achieve that aim, sorry for raising your hopes! But you can be consoled by the offer of the next best thing; Pleo the dinosaur! This animatronic toy is designed to mimic the appearance and behaviour of a Camarasaurus at the age of one week old. Obviously the lack of the aforementioned time machine makes it somewhat difficult to actually establish what that behaviour may have been like, but Ugobe, makers of the Furby, have made an educated guess. Ugobe tell us that Pleo will develop its own personality based on the experiences that it is subjected to. Its vast array of sensors and motors allow the baby dinosaur to notice its environment and react accordingly. It sounds great but the question remains as to whether this artificial intelligence is really able to create a unique personality.
Your Pleo dinosaur is equipped with a sophisticated sensory system that facilitates sight, touch and movement. There are nearly 40 individual devices buried under its green skin, alongside its 100 custom gears and 14 specially designed motors. Some of the devices included in each Pleo are a camera-based vision system to allow navigation and light detection, two microphones to provide more realism in the dinosaur’s hearing and four foot switches for surface detection. An orientation tilt sensor will inevitably have your Pleo complaining if you tip it upside down, and eight separate touch sensors will have it responding to any contact. There’s even an infra-red sensor in the mouth to let your new friend know that you’re attempting to feed it.
The Pleo’s strength is in the linking of this technology to creating what is essentially a unique personality. As an example, when the battery begins to get low so does the energy level of the dinosaur; you’ll notice the tail begin to droop and a slowing in any actions. Special sensors on the skin, chin, neck, legs, tail and torso will notice any violent jerks that you apply to Pleo which allow him to “feel” the mistreatment. You can rest assured that he will react to your action, perhaps with the exhibition of a limp. A mistreated Pleo may recover with enough love and nurture, depending on the life they’ve already experienced. Reactions to events such as these are what contribute to the unique personality of each individual Pleo.
Just as with any living creature your Pleo will develop through several different phases. Initially he’ll be quite content to be petted by you and sleepiness will be the overriding factor that keeps him from being as entertaining as when he gets a little older. The things that he encounters as he grows and develops will alter his personality in the long term and his mood in the short term. From an initial journey of discovery and acclimatisation to the outside world to a more intelligent being with enough Artificial Intelligence to enable him to act in accordance with whatever environment he may be faced with, you can be sure there will be plenty of entertainment along the way.
Pleo will let you know if he is hungry with a demanding hoot and forlorn appearance. He will respond to being petted and will make noise when jostled. What’s more if you insert something into his mouth and attempt to remove it he’ll even play tug-of-war with you!
Infra-red communication allows one Pleo to interact with another (or several others). With USB and SD ports it is also easy to update the dinosaur with the online downloads available for it.
Everything that you need for the care of your brand new dinosaur is included with the purchase. You’ll receive a companion’s guide telling you how to look after it, a training leaf, an identity card, a rechargeable battery and an AC power cable.
If you’re looking for a top of the range Artificial Intelligence toy then Pleo could well be for you. Its ability to learn and develop in the environment it is provided with will entertain both children and the inner child in every adult. The principle drawback seems to be the very poor life of the NiMH rechargeable battery. Three to four hours of charging will power the dinosaur for just one hour, which could quickly become frustrating. However if you can look past the delay to the inevitable fun to be had with your own cute little dinosaur then Pleo still seems more than a reasonable investment.