Thursday, May 28, 2009

Furby


Technology can be useful in mainly outlets. Growing technology has enabled us to add efficiency to production, precision to medical procedures, and expedite worldwide communications.

It can also make Furbies.

Popular science fiction books and movies would lead us to believe that robots are up to no good, and we've yet to see evidence to the contrary. I'm always nervously eying my Roomba vacuum, convinced it has a vendetta against me for accidentally feeding it so many carpet-based bobby pins. Sure, we've seen are a few kindly fictional robots in the mix (a la Rosie from the Jetsons), but generally we're taught that these robots want nothing more than to overtake us and render us terrified and useless.

Under close examination of a Furby, you'll likely find this scenario morphing into a frightening--though admittedly adorable--reality.

Declared the hottest toy of 1998 season, I was probably past the target age for these fluffballs but I was fascinated by their existence nonetheless. Here I was, thinking we were years off from the technology for a fully interactive robot buddy and suddenly, it shows up on toy store shelves speaking Furbish. Parents actually engaged in physical combat to secure Furbies for their loved ones, if that gives you any idea to just how desirable an in-house interactive robot was. It seemed that children everywhere wanted one, but no one had a clue what exactly these things did.

The lifeblood of a Furby is in a computer chip embedded in its fuzzy amorphous form, and it had several relatively clever functions. The thing itself was pretty unnerving. It was cheek-breakingly cheerful and alarmingly reactive to the world around it. Never before had a toy been equipped with the technology to hear, speak, move, and most notably learn. Meanwhile, I was out there accidentally starving Happy Meal Tamagotchis left and right, and felt generally ill-equipped to deal with such a needy toy.

In the Furby Care Guide, the Furbster himself is introduced as follows:

Hey! I’m FURBY! The more you play with me, the more I do!
I love to play and can tell you jokes, play a game, sing and even dance!
Bring me home today and I’ll be your best friend!

I don't know about you, but to me that sounds horribly, terribly, wince-inducingly frightening. That whole "Bring me home today and I'll be your best friend!" part is probably the creepiest thing I could imagine a toy saying to me. The whole thing reeked of Gremlins, and I knew I couldn't be trusted with one for fear of banishing it to a microwave-explosion fated doom.






Furby v. Gremlin






In general, the idea of having any sort of playmate with an on/off switch is a bit disconcerting. There was a sort of dichotomy behind those big, bulgy doe-eyes; in one sense, the things seemed cute and cuddly, but I had visions of it summoning legions of its Furby friends and storming my house, Bastille style.

They were, after all, oddly lifelike for something so foreign-looking. It had touch and auditory censors, enabling it to react to your tickling and verbal commands. The Care Guide claims that Furbies will pick up language in a manner similar to a human child, but in reality it was only capable of absorbing English. The Guide explains:

About My Personality
I speak Furbish®, a magical language common to all FURBY creatures. When we first meet, this is what I’ll be speaking. To help you understand what I’m saying, please use the Furbish® - English dictionary found in the back of this book. I can learn how to speak English by listening to you talk. The more you play with me, the more I will use your language.

I'm sorry, but if that's not one of the scariest things you've ever heard from a toy, then you obviously have suffered some serious childhood toy-related trauma. The instructions with this thing were so comprehensive, you sort of have to wonder how any children managed to play with them at all.

In case you were hoping to brush up on your Furbish, here's a handy little Furbish-to-English guide from the Furby Care manual:

If FURBY asks you a question, say either:
Yes [ee-tay]
Ok [oh-kay]
Yes, please [ee-tay-doo-moh]
No [boo]
No, thank you [boo-doo-moh]
No way [dah-boo]
I don’t understand*
* If you couldn’t understand what I said, I’ll repeat what I last said to you. I may say it a little bit differently, with more English, so that you can understand it better. If you tell me “I don’t understand” too many times, I’ll get sad and frustrated. Sometimes it’s best to be polite and pretend you understand – at least until I learn more of your language!

That last tip is probably the most frightening. What exactly happens when my pal Furb gets sad and frustrated? Again, visions of Gremlin-style debauchery are flooding my mindwaves. That's a pretty vague threat there, Furbs. What are you planning to do if I can't adhere to your standard of politeness? And, more aptly, do I really want my child's toy to become angry and disenchanted with my kid? That seems pretty cruel, considering it's supposed to be the other way around.

The thing also came with pages upon pages of clear, unwavable instructions on how to interact with your fluffy friend. For example:

How to ask "How are You?"
Say “Hey FURBY!” [Pause until you hear FURBY say “Doo?” “Yeah?” “Huh?” “What?” or “Hmm?”]
Then say, “How are you?”
I’ll tell you how I’m feeling.
Make sure you say “HEY FURBY! I love you!” frequently so that I feel happy and know I’m loved.

Geez, this thing is needy. Don't worry, though, there is refuge. Say you accidentally raise this thing to be super irritating, even more than usual. Well, have no fear, it's resettable:

If you would like to teach FURBY English all over again,
you can erase the current memory by doing a reset.
1. Hold FURBY upside down.
2. With the ON/OFF switch in the “OFF” position, depress
and hold the mouth sensor using your finger.
3. While holding the mouth sensor, switch the ON/OFF
switch to “ON.”
4. FURBY will say “Good Morning!” to confirm the memory
has been reset.

Now there's a good lesson for kids: if you don't like something, just hold it uside down and cover its air supply till it complies. Cute.

Of course, the marketers behind these knew how to make sure your kid wouldn't be satisfied with just one Furby. No, it was necessary to shell out the big bucks to buy it a friend. The manual explains:

FURBY Creatures Can Talk To Each Other! Here’s How!
If you want your FURBY to talk to another FURBY in Furbish®, just have them hug each other! Keep their tummies pressed together until their
eyes blink and they start speaking to each other. Once they begin speaking,you can separate them – but they should remain no further than 3 inches apart, facing each other. Keep your handy Furbish®-English dictionary close by to figure out what they’re saying!

It's uncanny the way this thing can seemingly read my nightmares. THIS. SOUNDS. TERRIFYING. Sure, your Furby can be social, just smush it into another Furby, watch its eyes blink in a vacanteerie manner, and they will soon begin plotting against you. What fun!


In 2000, Furby babies were released. Watch them interact and just tell me those things are not demonic.

If this isn't enough to freeze your blood in your veins, don't worry, there's more. I'm not just talking about the newer, more reactive incarnations, either. No, scientists have recently discovered real live Furbies nestled on an Indonesian island. All I can say to these scientists is, don't even think about pressing two of these babies together...one blink and we're all goners.


Check it out:
"Furby Fever" at The Onion
Full Furby Care Guide (source of above quotes)

34 comments:

lovelila said...

Oh my gosh, I was in middle school when these came out, haha! I've always gotten the gremlin vibe from them... which is why I didn't initially want one, creeeepyyy...

KekeLynn said...

I must say, I'm totally partial to Gizmo the Gremlin!!

Jaime @ Fast Times said...

So effing creepy. I used to think they were alien spies come to take over the world. They still scare the ever-living crap out of me.

Nic said...

I LOVED FURBIES!!!

for the love of pictures said...

That last picture will haunt me for a while :)

My sisters both had a Furbies when they were little. Imagine their surprise when one of those weird looking toys answered a question with "Shut up". I think the Furbies were packed away after that :)

Katie said...

Those things are still creepy

Srg said...

OMG - I'm going to have to dig out my old furby and reset the thing. I got so frustrated with it at one point that I put it away and never took it out again. Maybe my son will have fun with it now.

Lauren From Texas said...

i never had one - they scared the crap out of me and i heard horror stories about them becoming possessed. haha!

Adventures in Newlywed said...

My parents wouldn't let me have one - thank goodness for their wisdom...I would have had nightmares about a rabid, babbling furbie for years!

Boubou said...

bonjour !
wow ! your blog is a source of inspiration!!
im adding you now to my links !
well if you wanna be inspired by my collages or just dream, come and visit my blog :)
a bientot!
Boubbouteatime xx

DaisyChain said...

Thank you!
I love your blog too, I kind of miss my furby :(

Simply_Megan said...

Haha furbies! I never had one but all my friends did. We would have to be quiet when I was in my friend's bedroom or the furbie would wake up and not shut up! Once we even took the batteries out and it still kept talking. I always thought they were creepy, especially since someone told me when they blink their eyes take pictures.

Sadako said...

Awww. Mogwai! I never had one but I kinda wish I did now.

LiLu said...

The fake Furbies are terrifying, but the real one? I'll take 3, please. We all know how I love the fugly!

Amber said...

I used to watch the show Gremlins OVER and OVER again as a kid and that's why I never ever got a furby, they looked MUCH to similar for my taste.

That last picture of the "real-live furby" is kind of freaky!!

Practically Perfect... said...

Furby!

Cee said...

That real furby is really creepy. My brother was obsessed with getting one...then he did and it never learned english.

Awesome Sara said...

no!!!! the nightmares are back!!!

Trixie said...

I totally loved Furby, until he got too needed. I really wanted to take his batteries out but felt too guilty so when they died I just never changed them.

Nessa said...

I got one for Christmas, i remember!!!! lol. Loved mine! I think i taught it to say hot cocoa and stupid..thats about it.

marathoner81 said...

These things kinda freak me out.

The Wife in Stilettos said...

sometimes i find furby scary... :)

SassyLittleGinger said...

furby ruined my christmas.

i was all excited to get one, and i spent the entire day caring for the damn thing. finally i just took out the batteries and pretended it died. it made the creepiest moaning sounds and all i wanted to do was kill it.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god, this blog is hilarious. My cousin got a Furby for Christmas, and we messed with that thing so bad. We kept pissing it off, which in hindsight, probably wasn't such a good idea, seeing as how it could have spelled our doom. Whatever, she flipped the "off" button after about a week and that was the end of that. It was then onto our next obsession: beanie babies.

the girl in stiletto said...

furbyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

i love love love furby!

Hanako66 said...

lol

my mom found a boxed furby packed away somewhere and gave it to me this christmas...hilarious

Laina said...

I always wanted one of these, but my mom wouldn't get me one, not the real ones. I just had (and still have - don't ask) the plastic ones from McDonalds. *pouts* I still think they're cute... course, I'd kinda like it if I could have a Gizmo...

Cory said...

I remember Furby-mania. At one point, when my grandma was trying to procure a Furby for six grandchildren (rather unsuccessfully), I heard about an old woman getting trampled while trying to buy a Furby at a store. She was fine, and she told reporters (from the hospital, I might add) that she was just glad she got her Furby. Somehow, after getting trampled, this woman managed to not only find a Furby but escape with it from the crazed parents and grandparents who had just trampled her. I remember thinking that this woman could very well be my grandmother. I should have known better, since this was the same woman who chased a car-jacker out of her car and down the street.

Anyways, once I had my Furby, I was simultaneously irritated and frightened of it. Once my cousin claimed hers started talking in the middle of night...without batteries!, I decided to lock mine away somewhere.

Anonymous said...

holy freaking crap guys. i used to LOVe these things. my cousin and i tested the whole "they explode in the microwave" thing. and yes it works. but damn, they were creepy. THEY WERE ALWAYS LOOKING AT YOU!

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Anonymous said...

I think they really were planning to take over the world. My little sister got one for her birthday and a week or so of neglect later she picked it up again and it started smoking. Apparently it was defective and burned its own innards rather than managing to focus the destructive power outwards. My parents refused to take it back even if it was under warranty.

Jen said...

Ah man, my mum queued from 4am to get me one of these. I remember it waking up one night squawking 'me huuuuungry, me huuuuungry'!!

Anonymous said...

oh wow.. I had a furby.. have no idea where it went.. I just remember once the batteries had died-while I was suffering from an ear infection at the same time-and it was going nuts. scary.... there are real furbys in this world?

Anonymous said...

I had a Furby as a small child. Honestly I liked it for all of one day, and then it was not only creepy, but annoying. I could never get it to shut off, so I ended up taking the batteries out by day two.

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