Mattel, Ugobe and other toymakers are hoping that robotic dinosaurs are high on the must-have lists of kids this year. Spectrum Radio's Prachi Patel-Predd went shopping to take a look at some of the high-tech interactive dino playmates on the market and has our story.
GELLERMAN: There was a time - seems like eons ago - when toys were simple and fashioned from wood, cloth, metal and paper - but times have changed and toy technology has evolved. The Japanese toymaker Ugobe is one of the companies leading the way with a new generation of toy-asaurus as Spectrum Radio’s Prachi Patel-Predd reports.
PATEL-PREDD: When Ugobe announced that Pleo the robotic dinosaur would hit store shelves in late 2007, parents of pet-loving kids rejoiced. No more hair on the couch or litter-boxes to clean. Puppy-sized Pleo would be an ideal pet: cute and friendly, without the needs of a live animal. Twelve-year old Nadya Nee was intrigued.
NEE: Pleo could walk around and it wouldn’t walk off the table we tested that a lot and it would squirm when you hung it by its tail and it would also sometimes skid like when it would go on the wood floors and you could tickle its feet.
PATEL-PREDD: California-based Ugobe calls its products Life Forms. The company’s goal is to create lifelike creatures using state-of-the-art robotics technologies.
PATEL-PREDD: Pleo has six microprocessor chips, a camera, fourteen motors, two microphones, and eight skin sensors. It responds to touch and voice, cries when it’s hungry, goes to sleep when it’s tired, and likes to cuddle.
PATEL-PREDD: As 9-year old Mischa Nee found out, Pleo can also occasionally surprise you.
NEE: Once she snuggled up with one of my stuffed animals and fell asleep with it and then one other time when she was in my room she stood on two legs and said Ta-da.
PATEL-PREDD: Pleo is turning out to be one popular dinosaur robot. And it seems to have set off a trend.
RICE: Oh there’s absolutely a dinosaur toy trend this year. This year there’s a lot of dinosaurs that are robotic playmates.
PATEL-PREDD: Reyne Rice is a toy trends specialist for the Toy Industry Association. She says that many parents are looking for science and discovery toys. Dinosaurs fit the bill. And all the better if kids can interact with them.
RICE: Kids are growing up looking for interactive toys that will react to them and parents are looking for products that actually respond to a child and the child can actually use their imagination to play with.
PATEL-PREDD: Now other major toy-manufacturers are looking for a piece of the pie. Take Spike the Ultra dinosaur from Mattel’s Fisher-Price division, which you can pre-order online.
PATEL-PREDD: Remote-controlled Spike is designed for three to eight year olds. It stomps around, roars, rears up its front legs, and flashes the spikes on its back. Then there’s the D-Rex, which Mattel calls the ultimate pet for boys. D-Rex is ferocious and loyal. It responds to voice and touch, makes over 100 noises, wags its tail, and even guards its owner’s room. Do you want more cute and cuddly options? Nothing says cute more than a soft, gentle baby triceratops.
PATEL-PREDD: Playskool’s Kota the Triceratops moves its head, blinks and roars. And it’s life-size, so kids can hop on and pretend to ride it.
PATEL-PREDD: All that fancy robotics come at a price. Kota costs about 300 dollars, while Spike and D-Rex are about 150 dollars apiece. Pleo - the most sophisticated of the bunch - tops the list at about 350. A recent free software download from Ugobe’s website gives the toy the ability to learn. So every Pleo can develop a unique personality based on how it’s treated. One problem with Pleo so far seems to be the rechargeable battery that runs for about half an hour and then needs a three-hour recharge. And even with all the bells and whistles, the creature’s appeal is limited.
NEE: I thought it was cool when I first got it but after playing with it for a while it sorta got really repetitive.
PATEL-PREDD: But if your kids ask for a pet this year, and you dread the care, feeding and cost of a real animal, a robot dinosaur just might be the easy way out. For Living on Earth, I’m Prachi Patel-Predd.
GELLERMAN: Could be a perfect pet for the White House!
Our story on robotic dinosaurs comes to us courtesy of Spectrum Radio, the broadcast edition of IEEE Spectrum, the magazine of technology insiders.
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