Friday, December 14, 2012

Flickering Furby Fascination

Tuesday night I glance over at the TV and see a child hugging a Furby. My attention focuses. Furbies. Good. I'm curious about Furbies, so I'm glad I'm seeing a toy commercial featuring them. Except it isn't a toy commercial. It's a battery commercial.

Duracell batteries.

Furbies run on Duracell batteries? I knew they took batteries, but I thought they were like calculator batteries. Or cordless phone batteries, the ones with the little wire prongs on them. Or cell phone batteries you plug into your computer at night where they recharge and download software upgrades.

What kind of Artificial Intelligence runs on Duracell?

The toy kind, I guess.

This was the first moment I realized the Furby may not be everything I hope. If it runs on Duracell batteries, it isn't meant to last forever. It isn't meant to be an evolving friend and companion. It's just a bit of fake fur over plastic with a voice chip and plasma screen eyes possibly intended to keep Duracell in business.

Yes, you're thinking that's all it ever was, but I say it could be so much more. Hasbro is totally missing the boat on the adult Furby market.

Furby could keep my schedule for me, like the iPhone's new SIRI (is that how it's spelled?). Furby could be my alarm clock and contact address book. Furby could help me practice Spanish or harvest my Farmville farms when I can't get home on time. Furby could be a smoke/carbon monoxide detector. Furby could go to nursing homes and visit residents frightened of cats and dogs. Furby could come equipped with a camera and be able to answer my question, "Furby, what did the cats do today?" with video.

TT: No screen in the stomach, though. That's too close to Teletubby Land and those things creep me out way more than Furbies. Not sure why. They're very, very similar when I think about it.

Yes, all those things would take time and training of the Furby, but that's part of the fun. Taking a little alien owl-thing and making it a useful and beloved member of the family. 

The Duracell information really knocked the wind out of me but I'm pretty stubborn, so I decided to do more research.

I got hands-on with Furbies at Walmart (not too hands-on. They were in boxes). But I could feel the fur (very nice - no problem there) and look over the advertising text. Nothing too distressing other than the mildly threatening "you never know who your Furby will be." Does that mean it could turn out badly even if I'm nice, or good even if I'm mean to it? Is its personality set from Day One At Factory, or will nurture win out?

All the questions I had at the start.

So I'm conflicted. I want to test my mettle against this reportedly most irritating toy of all time and see who wins, but I'm afraid I will ultimately be disappointed, either because the win was too easy or just impossible. There's no point spending money on disappointment.

Thus, the Furby fascination flickers, attracting layers that say more about my obsessive nature than about Hasbro or Duracell.

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