Although many gadgets are useful in some way or another, most gadgets- on some level or another- are really just toys. In fact, there are a lot of technological gadgets that were designed and are primarily used as toys. Artificial life forms are one example of this. There have been a variety of artificial life forms on the market ranging from free software that imitates the way life forms evolve to commercial products like Gigapets and the Furby.
Now, we can expect an artificial life form type toy that promises to surpass all previous attempts to make robotic toys that are realistic. This product is made by the same company that introduced the Furby and is modeled after a baby dinosaur. The product is called Pleo and realism of both movement and behavior was the goal in its creation.
One of the ways that the Pleo imitates actual life forms is by going through various stages of development, and over the course of its early “life" the Pleo learns from the experiences that it's exposed to and develops a personality. When a Pleo is first turned on, it enters a stage of infancy called the “hatchling" phase. After the brief “Hatching" phase, the Pleo enters its “Puppy" stage. The “Puppy" stage of the Pleo's life is when it can most easily learn new behaviors. For example, if the robot performs some behavior and then gets “fed" by its owner, the Pleo will learn to repeat that behavior in order to be fed. During the “Puppy" phase, the personality of the Pleo can also be shaped in deeper ways. For example, if its treated roughly in its Puppy phase, a Pleo might develop a bi-polar personality or grow to be an angry adult. Once the Puppy phase has passed, Pleo enters a brief adolescence during which time it raises its snout and howls occasionally. Then, after the adolescent phase is over, the Pleo's voice drops and it becomes an adult. The adult phase of a Pleo is hallmarked by a relatively fixed set of behaviors and personality.
The Pleo has some interesting software that makes it appear to be alive, and thanks to a series of sensors over its body, the Pleo actually is aware of things that happen in its environment. For example, if you touch part of its body, the Pleo will look to see what's going on there. If you drape something over it, the Pleo will appear confused and try to shake it off. It also has programming built in so that if it isn't sure what kind of behavior is appropriate for a given stimulus, it will just randomly perform one of its predefined behaviors. That's one of the features that keeps it from being completely predictable and if it's unpredictable, the Pleo seems more lifelike.
There are several things that make the Pleo definitely unlike a living thing. For example, if you don't like the way your adult Pleo turned out, you have the option of “rebooting" it back to its “Hatchling" phase and starting over again. In someways this creates a disturbing precedent. After all, if artificial life forms become more like real life forms, but they can still be rebooted, it may become easy to think that it's okay to abuse real living things because they can always be rebooted later, and the harm that was done to them simply erased.
Regardless of the consequences of having machines around that imitate living things, we can be sure to see increasingly realistic artificial life forms in the future.
A pioneer in technology reporting, Christopher Ratliff has published articles about the latest digital devices and gadgets for over ten years. After graduating from MIT with a degree in electrical engineering, Christopher turned down huge salaries from some of the most recognized fortune 500 companies in the world to pursue his dream of becoming a leading consumer advocate. Christopher uses his expertise to cut through the too good to be true deals offered by high tech companies to reveal the real steals and the real duds that we're bombarded with daily. If you enjoy staying on the cutting edge of technology about newest gadgets , whether for business or pleasure, but find yourself occasionally confused by the overwhelming and convoluted information out there let Christopher show you the way.