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Ugobe, Maker of Celebrated Pleo, Goes Broke
Despite industry raves, high list price and poor economy kill chances for sophisticated Pleo robot toy.
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Apr 21, 2009

Pleo's design includes a host of expensive components: eight skin sensors (on head, back, feet, chin and shoulders); 14 force-feedback sensors (one for each joint); two microphones for binaural hearing; four foot sensors for surface detection and two 32-bit microprocessor logic chips to help it match its behavior to mimic lifelike emotions.

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As predicted by RoboticsTrends’ sister publication Robotics Business Review, Ugobe, Inc., manufacturer of the ultra-lifelike, ultra-expensive Pleo robotic toy dinosaur, has declared bankruptcy. 

The company has laid off its staff and filed for liquidation of its assets under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code, according to a story this morning in the Idaho Statesman, the local paper that covers Eagle, Idaho, the hometown to which founder Caleb Chung returned the company last year after downsizing and closing the company’s Silicon Valley operations. 

In its bankruptcy filing, Ugobe listed assets of $1.6 million, all but $100,000 of which was machinery in the Hong Kong factory where Pleo was manufactured, and debts of $3.6 million. 

Robotics Business Review analyst Laura DiDio mapped out the short, intense celebrity of both Pleo and Ugobe. Both were the the brainchild of Ugobe CEO Caleb Chung, who also designed the Furby, a robotic teddy bear that took the toy world by storm in 1998. Furby, manufactured by Tiger Electronics, was the first really successful robotic toy. 

Ugobe claimed to have sold more than 100,000 Pleos worldwide in 2008, despite a list price of $349.

DiDio placed much of the blame for Ugobe’s ongoing financial difficulties on Pleo’s high price – more than twice the top price most consumers are willing to pay for a robotic toy, according to a Robotics Business Review survey on buying criteria in the consumer robotics market

A meeting for creditors is scheduled for May 21. 

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