Refer to "Pleo" as a robotic pet, and its co-inventor, Caleb Chung (of Furby fame), will quickly set you straight: Pleo is a designer life-form. That's because, on the outside, everything about the one-week-old Camarasaurus is very unrobotic. Its movements are fluid, not rigid; its actions are seemingly spontaneous and unprogrammed; and its skin is smooth, seamless and stretchy. Inside, however, the 3.3-pound Pleo is very robotic indeed. It's stuffed with 38 sensors to detect light, motion, touch and sound. They feed information about Pleo's environment to one of eight processors that can handle a collective 60 million calculations per second. A complex computer program determines what the dino does next-howl over the edge of a table, sneeze, crane its neck around 180 degrees to see who´s scratching its back, or any of thousands of other possibilities. As Pleo´s manufacturer, Ugobe in Emeryville, California, develops more sophisticated personality coding, you´ll be able to upgrade the robot through its SD-card slot or from the Web through its USB port. Pleo´s Jurassic competition, the WowWee Roboreptile, successor to the popular Robosapien, also hits shelves this fall.
Check out this video of the Pleo in action. You'll need the QuickTime plug-in to view this video. Download it here for free if you don't already have it installed. If you are having trouble with the plug-in, here is a direct link to the video.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.