Making robots cute isn’t a simple proposition, and the industry just took a step backward. The company behind Pleo, the cuddliest piece of artificial life since Teddy Ruxpin appears to be among the latest victims of the global economic suckapalooza as Ugobe filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy today. That means we can probably bid a fond farewell to the best bet in pet robot technology to come on the scene recently. I mean, come on, how can you not love this little guy?

The worst bit of it is that a recent experiment in New York by the Tisch Interactive Telecommunications Program has demonstrated that cute, lost, orphan robots capture the hearts and helping hands of bystanders. The so called tweenbots were released on the streets of New York City, travelling towards a pre-programmed destination. The trick is, they can only travel in straight lines, meaning that to get where they’re going, people need to notice the little guys and then set them on their path, indicated by a flag attached to each machine. The surprising result is that people not only went out of their ways to stop and help the wayward bots, they would even point them away from their destinations to help them avoid dangerous situations.

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