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An Emoto-Tronic Furby (left) next to a 'Classic' Furby; (right) note the size difference.
|Availability||1998-2001, 2005-2007, 2012–present|
|Slogan||Let's Have Fun
Your Emoto-Tronic Friend
A Furby (plural Furbys or Furbies) was a popular electronic robotic toy resembling a hamster/owl-like creature which went through a period of being a "must-have" toy following its launch in the holiday season of 1998, with continual sales until 2000. Furbies sold 1.8 million units in 1998, 14 million units in 1999, and altogether in its three years of original production, Furbies sold over 40 million units. Its speaking capabilities were translated into 24 languages.
Furbies were the first successful attempt to produce and sell a domestically-aimed robot. A newly purchased Furby starts out speaking entirely Furbish, the unique language that all Furbies use, but is programmed to start using English words and phrases in place of Furbish over time. This process is intended to resemble the process of learning English. In 2005, new Furbies were released, with voice-recognition and more complex facial movements, and many other changes and improvements. The Emoto-Tronic Furbies (Furby, Furby Baby, and Funky Furby) continued to be sold until late 2007, when these toys became extremely rare.
Dave Hampton and Caleb Chung spent nine months creating the Furby (in addition to nine months spent designing the toy). Early on, Tiger Electronics showed an interest in their interactive creatures, and Roger Schiffman bought the rights to it. Furby's first public appearance was at the American International Toy Fair in 1998.
Furbies originally retailed for about US$35, and upon release, Furbies flew off the shelves in toyshops. Catapulting demand for these toys during the 1998 holiday season drove the resale price over $100, and sometimes as high as several hundred dollars. Furbies sold for over $300 in newspapers and in auctions. Nicknames were given to them, and sellers assigned rarity values to them. Some people continue to call their Furbies by the terms 'wedding Furby', 'tuxedo Furby', 'snowball Furby', 'biker Furby', among others. All, of course, were dubbed rare by sellers, because they were so hard to find at the time. In a sure display of the demand for the toy, some sellers at scammed people out of a great sum of money, without even having first given them a Furby. Parental battles, arguments, and fights increased rapidly as supplies dwindled, and when retail supplies ran out, parents turned to the Internet, where Furbies could be purchased for two, three, or more multiples of their retail price. During one 12-month period, a total of 27 million Furby toys were sold.
2005 saw the reintroduction of Furby with the release of the new Emoto-Tronic Furby. The increasing emotional realism of the Emoto-Tronic Furby has given birth to a number of Furby-oriented special interest groups. These communities seek to integrate aspects of the Furby experience into human society. The most visible of these groups include Furbish-to-English translators and Furby adoption agencies. In addition, there is a subculture of Furby furries.
On April 12, 2012, it was announced that Hasbro will be making a new line of furbies, which will be released in the fall of 2012.
The main reason for their popularity was because of apparent "intelligence", reflected in their ability to develop language skills.
Furbies can communicate with one another via an infrared port located between their eyes. Furbies start out speaking entirely Furbish, a language with short words, simple syllables, and various other sounds. They are programmed, however, to speak less and less Furbish and more and more English as they "grow".
There was a common misconception that they repeated words that were said around them. This belief most likely stemmed from the fact that it is possible to have the Furby say certain pre-programmed words or phrases more often by petting it whenever it said these words. As a result of this myth, several intelligence agencies banned them from their offices.
A simple electric motor and a system of cams and gears close the Furby's eyes and mouth, raise its ears, and lift it off the ground in a faux display of mobility.
The originals are still popular with many hackers as they can be dissected and made to do interesting things. In particular, their advanced audio capabilities and various sensory interfaces make them popular with the circuit bending community.
In 1999, the Furby Babies line was introduced. Furby Babies are smaller than the original, have higher voices, and cannot dance, but they switch to speaking English more quickly. They also have an extended vocabulary and different "Easter eggs" and "games" built into them. Furby babies come in 24 different colors. All have white eyelashes and one of six different eyecolors.
Novel Furbies were also released, including an interactive Furby-like Gizmo, from the film Gremlins, a Furby-like Interactive Yoda based on the Star Wars character, and a Furby-like Interactive E.T. from the movie of the same name. Another 'friend of furby', called Shelby, is similar to Furby, but looks like a clam, has vast improvements in memory, and has a different personality; it was released in 2001 and can communicate with the original Furbies and Furby Babies. They also have sensors that can sense loud sounds, can sense being upside down (they say things like "Shiver me timbers" and "Walk the plank" when you leave them upside-down for an extended period of time), and they laugh when you "tickle" them (their antennae – or "tennies", as they like to call them). They also purr when you "pet" them. You can feed them by sticking your finger in their mouth. Similarly, Shelbies do not have their own names, unlike the classic Furbies. Shelbies are also capable of knowing if it is talking to a Furby or another Shelby, saying phrases such as "Where's Furby?"—though they cannot differentiate between a Furby and a Furby Baby—they just assume it is a Furby. In addition to English, Shelbies also know some Furbish words and also have their own unique language called Shelbish.
The latest species of Furby was released in August 2005. Larger than the previous version, the new Furbies have been upgraded with a more emotional face and a voice recognition system, enabling them to communicate with humans. Unlike the Furbies originally released, just one order is necessary to make them 'sleep', and they have an on/off switch. They can communicate with other Emoto-tronic Furbies, though to a lesser extent than the communication between original Furbies, and they cannot themselves communicate with the original Furbies nor Funky Furbies. They also lack light sensors and basic motion sensors and do not respond to loud sounds as the originals do. These Furbies, according to the story they come packed with, are from Furby Island.
In 2006, a new version of Furby baby was released, with most notable features being the new look and a more "baby-ish" appearance in contrast to the Emoto-Tronic Furby adult. They also have considerably fewer features than the "adult" Furby, with a very limited vocabulary and a lower level of interactivity. Another notable feature of the 2006 Emoto-Tronic Baby Furby is the movable "legs" which unfurl when Furby baby is awake. Although they were a European exclusive, they were sold in the US via the Hasbro Toy Shop website.
The Funky Furbies were released in August 2006 outside the United States. They are limited to two color combinations (pink & yellow and purple & green) so far, and they can sing three new songs and dance. They can be taught dance routines and remember them.
A new species of Furby will be released in the fall of 2012. There is little detail about this.
Furbies became the topic of concern regarding security issues within various corporations and governments (see related news articles), the fears of which followed to the voice-interactive product Siri by Apple for their iOS (iPhone) platform (as reported by Wired Magazine in 2012). The general concern was that a Furby could repeat sensitive information it had "heard" later to other parties (in the case of Siri, the data ends up stored on Apple servers).
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Furbish is the Furbies' language, with simple syllables, short words, and various sounds. A newly purchased Furby starts out speaking entirely Furbish. Over time, the Furby gradually replaces Furbish words and phrases with English.
Furbies may say these Furbish words:
A 45-minute TV special, Furby Island, was produced in 2005. It features a young girl, Maddie, her brother, and their explorer parents, who travel the world looking for rare plants and animals. When Maddie tries to find a lizard, they discover Furby Island. They keep the Furbies from being captured by Doctor Conquest.
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