Tough times for pet robots...

Tough times for pet robots...

04/22/09 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Robots, General

There have been several hints earlier this year, but now it is official. Ugobe, the maker of the robotic pet dinosour Pleo has just filed chapter 7 bankruptcy.

After Sony had stopped the production of the AIBO pet robot in 2006, I was quite excited when I heard about the release of Pleo, a new programmable robot, selling for less than a sixth of the price of an AIBO. Pleo can percieve its environment using a camera, two microphones, multiple touch sensors, tilt and shake sensors as well as an infrared sensor and it moves in a slow but very natural way. In terms of sensors and actuators, Pleo was not much worse equipped than its “canine” predecessor. Unfortunately, Pleo is lacking wireless connectivity, but there is a solution for this:

I really wonder, if there will be any decent and commercially profitable pet/entertainment robots anytime soon… AIBO was canceled out of profitablity issues, Pleo ended in a bankruptcy and many other
A software development kit (PDK) had been promised by Ugobe to the developer and research community, but unfortunately it has never exceeded prototype state. The only successful entertainment robots I have seen so far, are essentially children’s toys with very low end sensors and actuators selling at a very low price tag, such as the RoboSapien and its kin.

I am quite sure, that the reason is not that adults do not like robots - when I conduct experiments with AIBO, most participants are fascinated by the little robotic dog - but I doubt, this is enough to make people actually buy a robot which is essentially an expensive toy. For the adult mass-market [which (unfortunately ;) )does not primarily consist of geeks and early adopters] a robot needs to be not only cute and fascinating but, above all, it needs to be useful. As useful functionality is still quite hard to implement in a small and affordable robot (How about crossbreeding AIBO and Roomba? B) ), I think we’ll still have to wait a couple of years for the first entertainment robot to become a commercial success.

Anyway, good bye, little Pleo!

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I am a Ph.D. student at the National Institute of Informatics in Tokyo doing research in the field of Human-Robot-Interaction. Sometimes I come across interesting information, papers or links, that I would like to share, so I started this blog.

If you are interested, please also have a look at my publications.

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