We normally think that robot and even toy development is a pretty dry academic process populated by researchers in labcoats wearing horn-rimmed glasses and pocket protectors. That might be true for some products, but the story behind the Pleo robot dinosaur is better suited for a prime time television mini-series. It’s not Desperate Housewives, but it’s close.
Robert Oschler at RobotsRule interviewed Derek Dotson, one of the orignal UGOBE founders, and came back with a story that includes success, failure, heart-break, and resurrection. According to Oschler’s report, the Pleo saga began with Dotson and Caleb Chung working together on the “Mattel Miracle Moves Baby” project. Then Takara, now Takara/TOMY, provided seed money for the proof of concept, but backed out. We would love to see a video of Caleb walking around in the dinosaur motion capture suit they put together to create the initial Pleo motions, it must have been hilarious.
Ugobe went on to gross around USD$20 million in Pleo sales, but outspent their ability to maintain a sustainable business model, and to keep credibility with investors. Even after Ugobe declared bankruptcy and went under the drama still continued unabated. Dotson, backed by Jetta, almost failed to secure the rights to Pleo.
And, like most popular stories, the Pleo saga has a strong possibility of having a happy ending. Dotson’s company, Innvo Labs, is committed to supporting Pleo and the existing Pleo customer base. They have already made significant improvements to the Pleo design, and have plans to introduce further improvements and new products as the business evolves.
The Inside Story Behind Pleo’s Rise, Fall, and Resurrection (RobotsRule.com)