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Unlocking Pleo's lifelike motion tricks

Posted: 29 Aug 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Pleo  Aibo  pet robot  lifelike motion  robotic toy 

Following the Sony Aibo robotic dog, the Ugobe Pleo dinosaur pet robot is the most recent incarnation of a learning and evolving personal robotic toy. The Pleo, like the Aibo, starts out as an infant animal and evolves over time based on interaction with its owner. Also similar to the Aibo, the Pleo can mimic emotion depending on human interaction, communicate through gestures and sounds and adapt its behaviour based on sensory inputs.

The hand-painted, texturised rubber skin surrounding the plastic exoskeleton make the Pleo a somewhat eerily real-looking robot. (Click to view teardown.)

After the Pleo is removed from its colourful, fern-green box, the immediately noticeable difference from prior generations of robotic toys is how lifelike it looks and feels. The hand-painted, texturised rubber skin surrounding the plastic exoskeleton, along with natural-looking eyes featuring irises and opening and closing eyelids, make the Pleo a somewhat eerily real-looking robot.

As important as the skin is in creating a realistic toy, it virtually eliminates any possibility of fixing a broken Pleo. Any defective Pleos that fall under warranty would have to be replaced with a new or reconditioned robot from Ugobe. To maintain the personality of an individual Pleo and pass it along to a replacement, the Pleo comes with both an SD memory card slot and a USB port to allow the transfer of accumulated "learning" from one robot to another.

The SD slot and USB port located in the Pleo's underside also allow updates to the proprietary Life OS developed by Ugobe.

Located next to the memory slot and USB port is the cavity for the 2,200mA-hour NiMH rechargeable battery pack, housing six AA-sized cells.

Sensory overload
After installing the freshly charged battery pack, the quick-start instructions recommend placing a hand on the Pleo's back and gently shaking it. Touch, one of the robot's defining senses, is provided by eight capacitive touch sensor foils, with four located on each of the front upper sections of the legs, two located on the back and two located on the top and bottom of the head. A light touch is all that is required to solicit a location-dependent reaction from the robot toy.

Complementing the touch sensors is an optical interrupter switch on the bottom of each foot pad that helps prevent the robot from walking off the edge of a table and causes the robot to squirm when it is lifted off of the floor as all four switches spring into the open position.

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