Pleo plays with a training leaf. In a future Pleo version, people may be able to use the training leaf to teach Pleo tricks.

Photo courtesy Ugobe

Customizing Pleo

Pleo's artificial intelligence works within the context of his operating system, Life OS. Because of the capabilities of Life OS -- some of which will be implemented in a Pleo software update -- people have the opportunity to change the way Pleo sounds and behaves. The overall goal, according to Sosoka, is "to allow lots of people to implement their vision and their dreams ... one of the things we spend a lot of time on is just finding ways to make it easy for people to express their idea of how a creature like Pleo should act or create their own experiences around it."

The basic idea is that educators, performers and hobbyists could customize Pleo using a digital memory device known as an SD card. With an SD card and a card reader, you could create programs and sounds and transfer them from a computer to a Pleo. Sosoka says:

Pleo has lots of sounds that he can produce in response to different activities ... They're sound commands that can turn into lots of different sounds. [These commands have] IDs, and so one of the things that we do is we let you just record a WAV file on your computer and name it the right thing ... [and save it as] the right kind of file. And then if you put that file on an SD card and you plug it into Pleo, your Pleo will behave just the way it did before except that whenever you would normally [hear] that Pleo's original sound, Pleo will play whatever that WAV file is. So when Pleo is doing his (makes dinosaur sound) to get your attention or try to get you get to feed him or something, you can record something completely different ... [whatever] you wanted to do. "I want a burger," or "get me a croissant."

Another forthcoming customization method for Pleo involves writing a simple computer program and saving it to an SD card. Using the Pawn scripting language, which is like a simpler version of the C programming language, people will be able to create their own Pleo controls. These abilities will be part of the Pleo developer's kit (PDK).

Many of these abilities will come as firmware upgrades to existing Pleos. Users will be able to download the upgrades from the Pleo site and transfer them to their Pleo using a USB connection. These upgrades will be transferred directly to Pleo's memory, but user modifications, like new programs and sounds, will be played from SD cards.

These are all part of the future of Pleo -- and the future of Ugobe. The company hasn't revealed its next robotics project, but according to Sosoka, "It will be a lot different from Pleo ... Pleo has a big space that we can explore and end users can explore, and so we can kind of let that space mature. We'll do something with the next life form will be in a very different space."

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