While prowling around the web, I found a link to a new robot toy called Pleo. Pleo is a robot produced by a company called Ugobe and is a robot model of a one week old Camarasaurus, a dinosaur from the Jurassic period. The web site claims:
" Pleo is a 'designer species'. He incorporates all the basic traits of autonomous life. He is specifically engineered and enhanced to mimic life and relate to his owner on a personal level. "
and further that:
"Pleo is capable of expression. He can feel joy and sorrow, anger and annoyance. When Pleo is tired, he will become drowsy and go to sleep, even dream. Two or more Pleos will recognize one another. Be careful though. They can transmit colds to each other. Achoo! Pleo even sneezes!"
Now I am not a vitalist, I believe it one day will be possible to create artificial life forms but Pleo is a poor mechanical analog for the sort of nervous system/hormonal controls involved in real emotion. Is Pleo a nice toy? Looks it to me and at less than $200 I bet Ugobe sells a lot of them. To claim that Pleo is aware, and shows emotion is a bit of stretch. Can you spell anthropomorphism?
Pleo does have some impressive capabilities (video) and one could argue some of the characteristics of life. It even seems capable of some limited learning about its surroundings, but it is qualitatively quite a different thing than an organism. Now when it is able to reproduce and maintain itself then I will change my mind.
Meet Pleo, descendent of furby