Don't cry Mr. Roboto!

Posted on November 27, 2006

One thing I've become accustomed to while working with computers is that they rarely show emotion. I almost said they never show emotion, but my computer got mad and wouldn't let me type that. Overall, however, computers are nice in that they don't attempt to influence you by giving you puppy-dog eyes. The computer usually lets you do what you want to do, or it closes the program and shuts down. But rarely does it laugh, at least in a way that you can see it.

That's about to change, when the company Ugobe launches a more affordable companion-type robot called Pleo. According to CNET, This particular robot is a dinosaur that will have the ability to react emotionally to its surroundings. There will be a mini-camera near Pleo's eyes that can detect positivity and negativity due to sight and sound.

This isn't a new concept; other technology companies like Sony and Honda have built similar robots. At under $300, however, the dinosaur will be cheap enough that consumers may actually purchase.

But who really needs a robot dinosaur that can read your emotions, anyway? It's a nice novelty, the same way that talking fish that can be mounted on the wall once was. Now, those fish are sitting in yard sales and garages across the world.

The hope for Pleo is that people will have the ability to add other modules (for instance, a Hungry module) that will give the robot features not included with the base model. There will be room to improve the companion, but at the moment, I don't see much of a need for it. If it could be taught to do rudimentary tasks, perhaps it could enter into the normal of everyday living. At least with Pleo, we wouldn't have to listen to Bob Barker about spaying and neutering pets ... at least, not yet.