Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Toyology Review: Furby

 My sister had a Furby, back in the day. I found it to be the second most annoying thing I had ever encountered. My sister, obviously, being the first. I didn't really understand the appeal. Why were they so popular? Why were people so interested in spending (wasting?) their time looking after a lump of plastic and electronics as though it were real? I mean, it's not like it's Data.

And now, like the bad penny, they're back. Yay.

(It doesn't really come across in written form, but that 'yay' was sarcastic)

Furby's have advanced quite a lot since they last put in an appearance. I'd say they'd evolved, but I don't want to fall into the 'thinking they're alive' category. They certainly do a lot more now and they include a whole bunch of extra gizmos - including an app (sorry, Android users, its just for Apple peeps at the moment).

The eyes, once lumps of plastic with eyelids which simply opened and closed, are now little LCD screens and thus are capable of displaying a variety of expressions. This makes a huge difference to feeling as though what you're doing is actually making a difference to this...thing. Furby responds to noises and takes a liking to particular sorts of music. It's hard to demonstrate in the video - unless I filmed the little guy over several weeks - but its personality changes depending on how you play with it. Frequent tail-pulling isn't going to result in a pleasant Furby, for example.

However, despite all this there are still a lot of limitations. The interaction isn't as immediate as might be desired. Pat its head and it doesn't immediately start cooing, so by the time it does whoever's playing with it will have started turning it upside down instead. And there's still only so much you can do with it. Playing times are only going to be a few minutes at a time, although potentially lots of few minutes at a time. Initially my children were very excited and there was a lot of 'look what he's doing now!', but this faded after a few days. Now they only seem to remember about it when it's been knocked over, wakes up and starts talking. Otherwise it sits in silence, ignored for the most part.

I suspect most adults who think Furbies will be annoying, will tend to find them annoying. Those who think they'll be cute and fun will find them fun. Your opinion is unlikely to change once you have Furby in hand. Saying that, I wanted to hate this thing. As it turned out, I kinda like it. I definitely don't like it enough to pay full price, but the brief time I spent with it was entertaining. However, from what I've observed of them playing with it, I don't think my children will play with it over long enough a period to justify the cost, but it is a fun novelty.

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