Review: Pleo gets sent back to the Dinosaur Pound
UPDATE: In record time, Sarah from Ugobe included feedback in the comments below. Just be clear, I was reticent to do a review at all, because I know how much work goes into things like this, especially for a small startup that pours their hearts into a product like this. It just turns out that it wasn't for me, and I had high, perhaps unreasonable expectations that weren't met. That said, please do read Sarah from Ugobe's thoughts in the comments below.
I've always wanted a little robot, maybe a dog or something that would wander around the house and be charming, but wouldn't require, ahem, care and feeding. I have enough trouble keeping myself and my family fed, the last thing I need is an actual animal to keep alive. I'm not a dog or cat person, sue me. ;)
Anyway, the Sony Aibo was a good idea, but it was (and is) too expensive (unless you, Dear Reader, want to loan/sell me your Aibo?) for my tastes.
This Christmas I got
myself the family a Pleo baby dinosaur using blog money, although the WAF on this one was at a new low. Seriously. But, I persevered.
Again, as with the iPhone, the Wife was correct.
What a profoundly disappointing toy. To be clear, it is a toy and an expensive one at that. Fortunately The Sharper Image has a good return policy.
- It's slow. It doesn't wander around the house. If you leave it alone for more than 10 minutes it "falls asleep." Basically you need to actively touch it for it to stay awake.
- Horrendous battery life. It has a pack of what looks like 4 AA batteries lashed together that fits inside it's stomach. However, you get only one pack, you have to remove it to charge and you're lucky to get an hour out of it. Any idea that this thing would wander around the house for a half-day are dashed at this point.
- It's noisy. I don't mean it's noisy with cute dinosaur noises, I mean it's noisy with gear gnashing sounds. This destroys any sense of realism, for me. The wife commented also.
- It's less-than-clever and slow in the head. You have to poke at it for 10-15 seconds, it seems, before it reacts with tricks and such
- Within a few minutes (maybe 10) of petting it, the paint started to flake off. The website says this "makes your Pleo personal" but I think it just shows that painted rubber is a sub-optimal fake skin.
- Still no word on when a Developer SDK is coming out. Perhaps expectations of a company are high given blogs and what not, but when a company has no visible blog and is slow with the updates (cough: Mozy) then folks quickly lose confidence, IMHO.
- It's got an SD slot and tiny USB, so upgrades are supposed to be easy, unfortunately according to their site even now as we approach the February after Christmas there is still no upgrade to their OS. Why should I care? Because apparently the current Pleo LifeOS has a bug where the Pleo doesn't adapt or grow correctly.
- It's fairly sturdy and nice to look at if it's not moving. So, as a piece of sculpture, sure. As soon as it moves, the illusion is over.
Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if it were faster, quieter, more interesting, but even my 2 year old grew tired and frustrated with it as it didn't "engage" or seem to notice he was there as he tried to feed it the plastic leaf it comes with. As soon as it failed to connect with him, that was the end of Pleo. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but I had high hopes and was very bummed by this whole thing and won't make this mistake again.
If you can borrow or rent or observe one first, I'd really recommend caution with this robot.