When the Pleo was released back in December of 07′ I was curious to see if this robotic dinosaur lived up to all the hype. Was is it truly intuitive with humans and could it somehow become another member of your family? While originally marketed with kids in mind, Pleo became the pet for adults as well. We got a chance to spend some time with Pleo by Ugobe and see if in fact it did bring a little bit of Jurassic Park into our home.
When I first received Pleo from the FedEx Stork I was very taken with his packaging. Upon opening the box I could see the attention to detail that went into just the design of the box. They really wanted you to be excited for what was inside as well as appreciate the time it took to develop the Pleo for the consumer.
When I opened the box I was greeted with a little green Camarasaurus which according to Pleoworld is the exact size of what one would be at this age. Also included was two rechargeable batteries (typically there is only one battery included), a battery adapter, companion guide, training leaf, authenticity ID Card. I was also given two SD Card’s of Pleo’s most recent personality enhancements: Watchdog and Holiday Pleo. I had to charge the batteries in the charger for about 2 hours and then I was ready to play.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect with Pleo once I woke him up. I slipped the fully charged battery underneath and locked it in place. I put Pleo on the floor and gently shook him with my hand on his back to nudge him awake. When you first turn it on it goes through the birth stage for 10 minutes. His eyes fluttered open and it was slowly moving limbs and making grunting noises. After the 10 minutes Pleo evolves to the hatchling stage which lasts 45 minutes. I was instantly sucked into its big blue eyes. I kept petting and stroking its face and picking it up and carrying it around. I really enjoyed petting its neck and face. Personally being a pet owner, I can say that it was really very life like the way Pleo was interacting with my touch. Of course it doesn’t have soft fur to stroke but instead its covered in somewhat soft rubber over what feels like a plastic shell under the skin. I picked up the training leaf to encourage Pleo to eat and after a bit of prodding it did take the leaf and held it in its mouth for a bit and then dropped it.
After the hatchling period is over the Pleo becomes an infant/juvenile and starts exploring, which it definitely did around the house. It was by my couch one second and then in my kitchen the next. I would go over and pet it again and watch its tail wag and look genuinely happy by swooning its held and wagging its tail and just looking up at me and me making some grunting noises which seemed pleasant and not cries.
Pleo has a wide arrange of emotions and it really all depends on you as far as how much do you want to interact with it. Ignore it for too long and it will become despondent and really look sad and pathetic. Play with Pleo with the training leaf and a cool game of tug of war will soon happen. I have to say Pleo really liked my bunny and vice versa. They both looked at each other in wonder and Pleo would open its mouth and make noises that seemed endearing to my bunny, my rabbit even tried to give it kisses. It was the cutest thing I had seen.
Another nice feature for Pleo owners is that new features are available for download on PleoWorld as long as you are a registered PleoWorld member. Once you are registered you can download the features on to at least a 32MB SD Card and then insert it into the “belly” of the dinosaur. I was able to observe the Pleo being a watchdog and spread holiday cheer. To activate the watchdog personality was a bit tricky you had to have your hands on the right sensors all at the same time. Your hands have to be on the left leg, on both back legs and then on the back. If you have successfully touched all the right spots he will start barking and growling when someone is in front of him. Stroke the back again and it snaps out of being a watchdog and back into a plain old dino. The holiday Pleo also takes some finesse to switch to that mode but once done right Pleo will sing to you jingle bells and a bunch of other holiday tunes in snorting or grunting manners. I found this personality to be a bit cheasy to be honest. It was like taking a $349 sophisticated robot and turning it into one of those singing and dancing stuffed animals you find in your local drugstore.
So as I have mentioned several times in this review that PleoWorld is a great source for those that own Pleo. It is a community of people that love their little green dinosaur. There are videos up displaying Pleo interacting in its different environments. There are the downloads to make it even more sophisticated. And there are even third party software that will let you mod Pleo to even more different and unique movements and emotions.
To the eye Pleo is just an adorable little rubber skinned robot dinosaur. Underneath that skin though is so much more. Sensors, speakers, cameras, IR communication, and microphones. All the mechanisms needed to bring Pleo to life and into your home. Many have taken it in with welcome arms even dressing it up and making it the second or third pet in their household. As much as I enjoyed Pleo I did find myself bored with after awhile. It just didn’t hold my interest enough or it did repetitive movements that I grew bored of interacting with. For $349 it’s a pretty high price to pay for something that I feel is still in its primitive stages. But I think over time that will change but I hope not too much that Pleo turns into a robotic T-Rex.
The Good: Extremely realistic movements and emotions. A robot the whole family could enjoy, especially adults. Great on-line community and support though PleoWorld
The Bad: A bit pricey and it may not keep people’s attention after awhile since emotions are a bit repetitive.