|Regular readers will know all about my love of gadgets. This one walks, talks gibberish, sings, dances, plays games and needs a fair bit of attention otherwise he’ll get into a mood! I’m describing “Pino”. Irresistably cute and already a Megastar in Japan, Pino is set to be one of this year’s (and Christmas’) hottest gadgets.
Depending on the amount of tender loving care/mild disinterest/active hostility, etc., you subject him to, Pino develops one of three personalities: Friendly, Shy or Naughty, which affects the way he responds to commands. Pino has a head sensor, two hand sensors, a sound sensor, infra red visor and a nose-mounted light sensor (not true vision though, like Aibo). Interacting with Pino through these sensors advances him through three stages of growth.
Age 1 – Pino displays basic emotions, sings songs and talks with other Pinos. Age 2 – Pino displays a full range of emotions, walks, plays games and responds to sound, light and infra red. Age 3 – Pino now has a fully developed personality (either Friendly, Shy or Naughty). You can also place two Pinos facing each other and they’ll interact.
The look is very much like a smaller version of Sony’s prototype SDR-4X. I mentioned the SDR-4X a few months back, it can recognise faces, voices and names, hold simple conversations, it has a 60,000 word vocabulary and can pick itself up when it is pushed over. It will also sing with others in four-part harmony, can walk on uneven surfaces and so on. However, Sony say their humanoid robot will cost “as much as a luxury car”! (There’s a BBC video you can watch HERE – you’ll need Real Player installed.)
There’s clearly a market for those who don’t have that sort of money, and let’s remember, even Aibo costs well over £1,000 by the time you’ve added the necessary software. Technically, Pino’s not a patch on Aibo (and especially not on June‘s Maxwell :-). Pino has no non-volatile memory and progress is lost when the batteries are changed (there’s a ‘cheat’ to step him through his ages though) and he’s not rechargeable either, but what do you expect for fifty quid? However (and this is the point) it’s an amazingly low price for its complexity and capabilties. If you’re a parent, watch for Pino to appear in this year’s letter to Santa! Frankly, when compared to a shoot-em-up game for the same price or more, Pino will at least teach your children to see how their moods and actions affect others; you could do a lot worse for a gift. You can buy Pino online, right now. I’d recommend Firebox.com as usual. If the Japanese experience is anything to go by, it might pay you to get in quickly. :-)