Pleo’s dinosaur sibling for the new millennium kids

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Konstantin Sheiko
January 10, 2018

If your child is asking for a little brother or sister, get them a Pleo pet dinosaur instead – they are destined to bond and become great friends!

Digital innovation has long been at the forefront of world media news. New computer processors, carbon fiber Internet, 3-D television sets, virtual reality gaming consoles and voice-operated gadgets just to name a few innovations have become a part of everyday reality for millions of adults. The good news is that that the 21st-century digital revolution is also creating new exciting opportunities for children of various ages, including toddlers. Next generation processors, embedded within soft thermoplastic materials, power new age interactive toys for kids. 

One of such toys is Pleo rb (stands for reborn, indicating an improved and more sophisticated version as compared to its earlier predecessor). Pleo is a robotic dinosaur ‘life form’, designed by Caleb Chung, one of the co-creators of Furby, and shares much of the robotic ingenuity and appealing design that made that toy such a success, and is manufactured by Innvo Labs. Pleo uses a mixture of robotic sensors and artificial intelligence to simulate the imagined behavior of a baby dinosaur, while the visual, mechanical and virtual designs work together to ensure that a toe maintains the appearance of a living creature. Pleo baby dinosaur demonstrates organic body language, is aware of its environment, and possesses recognizable behavior patterns that evolve or change over time. 

Each Pleo unit starts out as newly hatched baby dinosaur Camarasaurus, which stands for “Chambered Lizard”, referring to the holes in its backbone. Camarasaurus is the best-known sauropod, or a very large quadrupedal herbivorous dinosaur with a long neck and tail, small head, and massive limbs, found in abundant fossils in North America. This dinosaur type was chosen because its body shape, stocky head, and relatively large cranium made it ideal for concealing the sensors and motors needed for lifelike animation. This toy is not just about fun – it is also about education! 

The uniqueness of Pleo rb is demonstrated through its individual behavioral patterns. According to Pleo website, like any live creature, the baby dinosaur “feels hunger and fatigue, offset by powerful urges to explore and be nurtured. It will graze, nap and toddle about on its own when it feels like it. Pleo rb dinosaur can change its mind and its mood, just as you do.” Pleo is capable of responding to human contact and developing distinct personalities depending on its interactions with its user. In other words, if a kid playing with Pleo is a shy introvert, there is a good chance their baby dinosaur will develop character traits and action patterns similar to its user. 

The Pleo website outlines many of the behaviors Pleo can simulate. Pleo uses "a combination of ‘born in’ characteristics, such as courage, activeness, and obedience, and ‘after born’ characteristics, like hunger, mood, and health, to simulate the ‘nature and nurture‘behavioral growth of a real animal". The toy is also aware of the time of day with its behavior changing over time, becoming more active during the day and sleeping during the night. 

Sophisticated interaction is a big part of Pleo’s realism, as it responds to sight, sound and touch. It cannot swim or fly, but it craves regular attention and care. It may get sick, sad, scared, injured or exhausted if it is mistreated (dropped or beaten), left alone in the dark for too long, starved, overheated or frozen, and in general not taken care of properly. Just in case a little dinosaur gets on of these afflictions, it might require additional rest, petting, feeding with healthy foods and herbs – just as a real pet does. 

Pleo also comes with multiple accessories, such as different foods that it has varying preferences for, and learning stones that enable it to ‘memorise’ different behaviors, allowing for a simulation of training to take place. Combined with ongoing expenditures on accessories, the prices on nine different types of food, seven types of ‘learning stones’, and trendy outfits are varying within 5.99-20.00 dollar per item bracket, while the price of a regular Pleo units averages at about 500 dollars. The key to Pleo’s magic is its evolution mechanism that sees the development of toy dinosaurs as growing live entities over time. 

Pleo’s personality development spans over four distinct life stages. At first, it behaves like a newborn and needs to be "hatched" and brought up. With proper care, it will "grow up" into a juvenile after about two days. It starts to stand and walk smoothly during its teenage stage, and can then be taught to recognize its name. As owners continue to teach verbal commands, it will get to the mature stage and all features will be fully enabled. The whole maturation cycle might take up some time to fully develop, making it an important feature; a child playing with Pleo gets not only a toy but also a companion friend that grows up and matures together with its user over a considerable period of time, making this purchase well worth the money spent.

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