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PLEO is an animatronic pet dinosaur toy designed to emulate the appearance and (imagined) behavior of a week-old baby Camarasaurus. It was designed by Caleb Chung, the co-creator of the Furby, Chung's company Ugobe first sold Pleo and was manufactured by Jetta Company Limited. Chung selected this species of dinosaur because its body shape, stocky head, and relatively large cranium made it ideal for concealing the sensors and motors needed for lifelike animation. According to Ugobe, each Pleo would "learn" from its experiences and environment through a sophisticated artificial intelligence and develop an individual personality.
PLEO was unveiled on February 7, 2006 at the DEMO Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona and was expected to come on the Indian and American markets around Fall 2007. PLEO shipments started on December 5, 2007.
On June 8, 2009 Jetta Company Limited (the original PLEO manufacturer) announced it is re-launching Pleo and are continuing the line including accessories such as the vital battery and battery charger components.
Since 14 July 2009, PLEO is owned by Innvo Labs Corporations (a division of Jetta). Innvo Labs decided to support the Ugobe PLEO owners and is continuing to expand the PLEO line including accessories such as the recovery battery and battery charger components.
In December 2011, the second generation, PLEO rb, was first launched in America, Europe and Hong Kong where Innvo Labs headquarter locates.
- camera-based vision system (for light detection and navigation)
- Two microphones, binaural hearing
- beat detection (allows pleo to dance and listen to music).
- Twelve touch sensors (head, chin, shoulders, back, feet)
- Four ground foot sensors (surface detection)
- fourteen force-feedback sensors, one per joint
- orientation tilt sensor for body position
- infrared mouth sensor for object detection into mouth
- two-way infrared communication with other Pleos
- infrared detection for external objects
- 32-bit Atmel ARM7 microprocessor (main processor for Pleo)
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Beginning in December 2008, Pleoworld.com began to experience technical problems. By the Christmas holidays, Pleoworld was offline, including the user forums. After the holidays, both Pleoworld and Ugobe's official websites displayed updating website messages. Both sites returned sometime at the beginning of 2009. Ugobe official website updated its board of directors listing. Ugobe stated that the problems were due to the company's relocation but had not explained why the user forums have not been restored.
Wired News reported the company's outlook was not good, and it was struggling to save itself from extinction as it tried to raise new funding and keep its pipeline of products alive.
From November 2008, the company saw a host of top management departures, including two CEOs, moved its office in California, and pared down its marketing and Public Relations staff in an attempt to weather the current economic storm. (This may be the reason for Pleoworld's demise.) Emails to the company's media contact on its website bounced back. Phone calls to its corporate office were not answered.
In July 2008, Ugobe CEO Bob Christopher stepped down and former CFO Liz Gasper retook control of the company. Christopher said he left the company to move on to other ventures. Gasper had focused on cutting down the company's burn rate and finding new funding.
With the collapse of the United States credit environment, though, fund raising came to a halt. Meanwhile, the company's entire board of directors resigned before December, 2008, giving control of Ugobe back to the co-founders.
It had become extremely difficult for new PLEOs owners or existing members of the website to access the official forums and Plogs. In the wake of these problems, a loyal fan has set up a forum for members to join to talk Pleo, get the latest Pleo news, and download firmware updates for Pleo.
On April 17, 2009 Ugobe filed chapter 7 bankruptcy, and halted the production of new PLEOs.
Jetta acquired PLEO
On June 8, 2009 Jetta acquired PLEO and later in July, Innvo Labs was founded for the development of PLEO business while Jetta continued to manufacture for the PLEO line. Innvo Labs is a division of Jetta and is a privately held company based in Hong Kong. Jetta and Innvo Labs is committed to re-launch the PLEO line and continue the line of products including accessories such as the recovery battery and charger components for Ugobe PLEO. In order to strengthen its brand, Innvo Labs is decided to enhance their customer service, and so set up a customer service hotline and email to collect public opinions and reply to customer inquiries on PLEO and PLEO rb.
Innvo Labs launches PLEO rb
In December 2011, the latest iteration, the PLEO rb (Standing for ReBorn), was invented and released. PLEO rb is similar to the original PLEO. However, no two units are exactly alike: each PLEO rb comes with randomly selected eyeball, eyelid and eye-shadow colours. The skin is always a slightly different hue of green. A special line of pink or blue PLEO rb were released in late 2012. PLEO rb has more senses than the original. The enhancements include:
- [ 1. Eyes: It can now recognise colors and patterns; it can also detect drop-offs so it steps back from the risk of falling.]*
- [ 2. Ears: It can hear, and will turn towards the source. Owners can name it and teach it verbal commands using "learning stones". ]*
- [ 3. Nose and mouth: It can sense what kind of "food" or "medicine" owners are feeding and then it will choose to eat or not according to its simulated needs and wants. ]*
- [ 4. Skin: It can sense the temperature of its surroundings and react accordingly; it can sense whether it is being petted or hit and react to touch. ]*
- [ 5. Time: It can recognize the time to wake up, eat and sleep. ]*
There are altogether 9 new kinds of food and medicine items made for PLEO rb in different health and life situations and 7 new "learning stones": these can teach PLEO rb how to bow, dance, sign, walk towards their owner, play games, etc.
PLEO rb is designed to behave like a life-form, with 4 distinct life stages. When unboxed, 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.