Furby Creator Develops Robotic Dinosaur - InformationWeek

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Furby Creator Develops Robotic Dinosaur

Pleo, a 'life form' robotic toy, is the latest big idea from the man who brought the world Furby in 1998. Pleo senses 'pain' and yelps if stepped on.

A room full of venture capitalist and high-tech executives at Demo 2006 sang Happy Birthday to Pleo the dinosaur as Ugobe Inc. unveiled its first life form robotic toy.

Ugobe spent three years developing the Life Form Operating System, a vocabulary of accurate responses to sensory input, said John Sosoka, Ugobe's chief technology officer. "There is a motor controller for each shoulder and arm," he said. "There are several inferred objects detectors and transmissions that send bit streams of information, similar to a television remote control, to the operating system."

Sony Corp. may have put the Aibo robot dog to sleep to cut costs, but Pleo is the latest big idea from Caleb Chung, who co-invented the Furby in 1998.

Pleo has nearly 40 sensors for sight, sound and touch on his head, back and feet. Sensors inside the joints can simulate pain, Sosoka said, which prompts a yelp and possible limp. Each dinosaur is capable of developing its own personality. There is a multimedia memory card where responses to actions are stored and personalities are created.

Emotions are configured in an artificial intelligence engine with more than 50 algorithms. Pleo can interact with humans or react to the surroundings. By understanding biological and neurological systems and re-interpreting them in hardware and software, Ugobe's engineers managed to develop a robot capable of being aware.

Pleo has eight processors that control 14 motors. "We are going after motor coordination, not how fast it can go," Sosoka said. "The problems we're trying to solve are different than computing power."

They are often found in computer gaming, Sosoka said, because two dinosaurs can interact with each other. In the future, Sosoka said, programmers could potentially have characters in the physical world represent those in the gaming world. The option isn't offered today, but the possibility is real.

Ugobe closed a venture led $2.5 million Series A round in the fourth quarter of 2005. The company plans to raise a Series B $5 million round in the second quarter of this year.

Pleo could hit shelves at specialty stores, such as Sharper Image, by the 2006 holiday season. It's expected to sell for approximately $200.

For other product news from Demo 2006 in Phoneix, see Tech Innovators Hit The Stage At Demo.

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