February 14, 2016

Two Month Review: Late 2015 Person Mini

My Person Mini arrived on December 11. Given that the original delivery estimate was the 14th, I was pleasantly surprised despite being repeatably told this could happen. Still, you’re never fully prepared.

Although many websites advertise home delivery, my wife and I choose to pick up in the store. As most things nowadays, the home delivery would have been a lot cheaper. But we were concerned about the warranty, since we’ve heard some horror stories and wanted to avoid any complications.

We had also been told that we would be getting the male version of the product. This was useful to know beforehand to match some of the accessories. But I must confess I did check to make sure the additional feature of this version was present.

Initial Setup

Like with any new device, you name it to more easily identify on a network or park. Sadly my usual naming convention based on whatever book I’m reading at the time — which has produced such great names as Shadow, Shaftoe, and Dieter — was not accepted by my wife1.

In the end we went with Roberto Andrés, which similarity to mine will hopefully make it easier with sharing cloud services and social networks2.

A note for first time users like myself: while a huge knowledge base exist online, the Person Mini comes with literally no documentation. I will expand on this below, but for such a complex device I was expecting a bit more.

Hardware Design

Given that the overall design is a few hundred thousand years old, I’m not surprised of how functional the hardware is. You can see how much effort was put into miniaturization, and the components have a delicate luxury look.

That said, the design isn’t for everyone. I haven’t seen actual data, but from my anecdotal experience the Person Mini design gets very different responses on a few key market segments:

Group | Age Range | Notes |
–- | –- | |
Females | 18 - 55 | Beautiful was used a lot to describe it. |
Females | 55 + | Precious and blessing kept coming up. |
Males | 18 - 55 | A few used impressive and amazing. However, many others questioned if the device design was really finished at all. |
Males | 55+ | Some in this group echoed their female companions. Although others just smiled and nodded knowingly. |

Customization

One of the biggest selling points of the Person Mini is that each one is custom-made based on the parents. But for the first month, I was a little concerned that none of the specifications from my account was used on the hardware of our model. My wife claimed she didn’t notice at all; but my mother-in-law was clearly fascinated by this setup.

Strangely, my mother kept saying that our model seemed like a clone of my account. By the second month things have improved in my favor, but I’m now more concerned with the software than the hardware.

User Interface

I’m going to go ahead and say it: the UI is terrible. Even when only a few days old, and the only features configured were input, output and stand-by, I couldn’t make heads or tails on how to interact with it.

After two months the AI Interface has improved considerably. But it still hit or miss. Repeating the same actions hardly ever gives the same results, and in some cases, the oposite of what you were expecting happens. I don’t have the time or energy to try to explain how sometimes three taps on the back result in a comforting burping sound — while on others a high pitch noise is emitted and some sort of defensive mechanism deploys a white rancid substance with laser target accuracy.

Long time owners of similar devices have told me the learning curve of the AI is steep but rewarding. We can only hope. Over the past week my wife seemed to have discovered an easter egg that makes the unit smile. However, even when she tries to repeat the steps (which involves a using nonsensical sentences in a high-pitch voice) it doesn’t always work. Never mind that the same process has never worked from me — yet I still get the easter egg randomly.

In what is becoming a theme with the device, even the elusive smile is rewarding enough to justify it. No other device in the market today has provided the same level of engagement.

A Note on Puberty

Virtually all owners of older units have advised that the interface only gets better with time, but I was surprised to find that most with models from the year 2000 and earlier express that their units developed a fatal interface bug that lasts a few years. It seems that at some point communications break down because of a failed software upgrade. The devices continue to operate, and consume a considerable amount of food and clothing.

Notification System

While I may not be a fan of the sound design, I have the give credit for an effective system. You won’t miss any messages from the device — you might not be able to read them, but you know something is up.

Battery Life

Given that similarly sized devices like tablets and notebooks regularly have a 10 hour battery life, I was a bit disappointed that Roberto Andrés averages about 3 hours between charges. I guess battery life would be a bit better if it would enter stand-by mode more easily. However, half the time - specially during the day - it will stay powered on even when his mom is clearly trying to get him to sleep.

A note on third-party charging cables

The debate between using the custom charging conector my wife already has or buying a third party cables with replaceable battery packs should be well known to anyone looking at a Person Mini. It’s for each owner to decide what’s better for their device. In our case, we are mostly using the Ana’s equipment and supplementing with third-party one from Amazon.

My suggestion here is to figure out what works for both mom and device. One thing not mentioned much is that once mom’s equipment is paired with the Person Mini, its functionality changes enough that it might not be as entertaining as before. Just be aware that you’ll be loaning them to the device of a while.

Final Thoughts:

Either as a planned purchase or ordered by accident, the Person Mini is life changing device. It’s the most fascinating, expensive, beautiful, complicated, irreplaceable, exhausting and just plain cool device I ever had3.

Looking at Ana interact with Roberto Andrés, I’m equally curious and dreading the next 30 years. I want to see what he will become, but also freeze time and enjoy the bundle of joy he really is.

It’s a really hard device to recommend. Because nothing prepares you. It’s without a doubt something to experience. Because the more you focus on your Person Mini, the easier it is to miss the biggest feature s/he brings: a sort of personal software upgrade no lifehack book, podcast or Ted Talk has ever taught me.


  1. I didn’t help my case with a Chinese Sci-Fi novel. Still like the sound of Shi Qiang (史强) though.

  2. In reality, he will likely steal my username from new services like the snappy chat, like I did with my Dad. Roberto Mateu senior last rmateu was a CompuServe account.

  3. I don’t say owned because I finally understand my Dad’s saying: Your kids aren’t yours. You are borrowing them until they go off on their own.


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