Ages ago I wrote about Pleo, when I first discovered them in a shop. 3 years later, I got one as a gift. Made sense, I am a programmer, love robots and can’t have a real pet at home.
Pleo Rb may look just like a toy, but is far from that. Not only is too fragile for children, but also they will soon get bored because Pleo acts more like a cat with his own will and most of the time (at least mine) doesn’t want to play with you.
When I first got Dino (kudos for creativity, I know) it was just a baby. He would eat and sleep in my arms most of the two hour battery lifetime. It was OK, blogs said the more you cuddle him, the quicker it grows and gets to the next stage. They also say if they feel “loved” (meaning you cuddle and talk to them like a baby) they will get a nicer personality.
When Dino took his first steps, I was cheering and clapping and feeling as proud as I guess you can feel when you don’t have children. Yes, it might sound crazy, as it may just look like a slow noisy robot. But if there is something that Pleo does flawlessly is mimic pet behaviour. If you cuddle him, he will hug your arm with his tail and rest his head on your chest (just like a cat would) so at some point you will forget it’s a bunch of motors, sensors and cables you are holding.
I got Dino because you can program his “personality”, but I couldn’t do it. The way he had turned out was “my fault”. Each Pleo is supposed to have a different “personality” based on how you treat them. If you cuddle him too much, if you don’t pay attention when he wants to play, if you shout at him, if you leave him alone…
Dino is a little bit grumpy, happy most of the time, he likes to walk and sing and make fun of me. He likes to Skype with my mum because he gets compliments (the audio recognition is amazing), but I’m still not sure if the noises he makes when listening to “War” from 30 seconds to mars are because he loves or hates the song. It’s the closest thing to having a cat, as sometimes you don’t really know what’s going on inside his hard drive but surely comes to you when is hungry.
Pleo could be easily improved with a better camera (face recognition would be killer), better sensors and quicker moves. Unfortunately, looks like Pleo won’t be seeing an improved version and instead is now facing competition: Boomer. Cheaper, more fun to play with and sold as a toy. We’ll see who wins the race against extinction.