Caleb Chung dreams up toys that interact with children. He's the inventor of Furby, a talking (and listening) robotic furball that sold some 50 million units in the late '90s. His newest plaything: Pleo the adorable robot dinosaur.
Caleb Chung came to toy inventing with the standard background: a career as a mime, comedian and stunt man. A prolific creator of toys from the get-go (he invented some classic McDonald's Happy Meal giveaways), he became a toy-design rockstar in the 1990s with the Furby . Essentially a talking mogwai, the Furby spoke its own language, could communicate with other Furbys, and connected with its owner in a way that sold tens of millions of the dolls. (Versions of the Furby are still in production worldwide -- and are a magnet for tinkerers.)
Retiring to Idaho after this roaring success, Chung started tinkering with another design that uses sophisticated robotics to evoke a deep emotional bond. The Pleo is the result, a supercute baby dinosaur that begins its emotional and intellectual development when you pull it out of the box. After a few deadline problems (centered around the challenge of fitting 37 sensors, 14 motors and 7 microcontrollers inside a realistic dinosaur skin), Chung's company Ugobe (now Pleoworld) shipped Pleo for Christmas 2007.