A Furby (plural Furbys or Furbies, according to Tiger. Co.) is an electronic toy, more specifically, a robot, made by Tiger Electronics 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. Furby sold 1.8 million units in 1998, 14 million units in 1999, and altogether in its three years of original production, Furby sold over 40 million units, and its speaking capabilities were translated into 24 languages. Furbys 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 Furbys use, but are programmed to speak less Furbish as they learn more English. The more English they learn, the more they "grow", thus placing them under the autonomous robot category.
In 2005, new Furbys were released, with voice-recognition and more complex facial movements, among many other changes and improvements.
Birth of the Furby
In appearance, the Furby resembles a giant furry owl
with rabbit ears. Dave Hampton
and Caleb Chung
created the Furby in merely nine months (in addition to an additional nine months spent designing the toy). That was the amount of time between Tiger Electronics
showing an interest in his interactive creatures, during which Roger Schiffman bought the rights to it, and the time they hit store shelves. Furby's first public appearance was at the International Toy Fair
Furbys originally retailed for about US$35, and upon release Furbys flew off the shelves in toyshops. Catapulting demand for these toys during the 1998 holiday season drove the resale price over US$100 and sometimes as high as several hundred dollars. Furbys sold for over US$300 in newspapers and in auctions. Nicknames were given to them, and sellers assigned rarity values to them. Some people continue to call their Furbys 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 even one Furby, some sellers at the time scammed people out of a lot 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 Furbys could be purchased for two, three, or more multiples of their retail price. This action led to many parents ending up on eBay. 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 flourishing subculture of Furby Furries (see furry fandom
The original Furbys were 6 inches (15 cm) tall. The main reason for their popularity was because of apparent "intelligence", reflected in their ability to develop language skills.
Furbys can communicate with one another via an infrared port located between their eyes. Furbys start out speaking entirely Furbish, a language with short words, simple syllables, and various other sounds, but are programmed 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 switch to speaking English more quickly. They also have an extended vocabulary, and different "Easter Eggs" and "games" built into them.Baby furbies come in 24 different colors. All with white eye lashes, six different eyecolors.
Novel Furbys were also released, including an interactive Furby-like Gizmo
, from the movie 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 Furbys and Furby Babies. They also have sensors that can sense loud sounds, they can sense being upside down (they say things like "Shiver me timbers" and "Walk the plank", in the style of a pirate ship captain, 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, Shelbys do not have their own names, unlike the classic Furbies. Shelbys are also capable of knowing if it is talking to a Furby or another Shelby, saying phrases such as "Where's Furby?" - though they can't differentiate between a Furby and a Furby Baby - they just assume it's a Furby. In addition to English, Shelbys 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 Furbys have been upgraded with a more emotional face and a voice recognition system, enabling them to communicate with humans. Unlike the Furbys originally released, just one order is necessary to make them 'sleep', and they have an off switch. They can communicate with other Emoto-tronic Furbys and new Furby Babies, though to a lesser extent than the communication between original Furbys, and they cannot themselves communicate with the original Furbys. They also lack light sensors and basic motion sensors. These Furbys, according to the story they come packed with, are from Furby Island.
Emoto-Tronic Furby Babies
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 less 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 awakened.
Emoto-Tronic Funky Furby
The Funky Furby was released in August 2006 outside the US
. They are limited to three color combinations (pink & yellow, orange & red, and purple & green) so far, and can sing three new songs and dance. They can be taught dance routines and remember them.
There are also many very rare furbys. The bejewled furby, the rarest of them all is worth over $100,000, because of the large amount of jewelry and there only 5 in the world. Not to mention a large amount of other rare furbys.
Although they are able to respond to other phrases and words, the Emoto-tronic Furby will answer the following without problem:
- wee-tah-kah-loo-loo: Tell me a joke
- wee-tah-kah-wee-loo: Tell me a story
- wee-tee-kah-wah-tee: Sing me a song
- u-nye-loo-lay-doo?: Do you want to play?
- u-nye-ay-tay-doo?: Are you hungry?
- u-nye-boh-doo?: How are you?
- u-nye-way-loh-nee-way: Go to sleep now
- u-nye-noh-lah: Show me a dance
- wah-wah-wee-wah: Very nice, I like
Furbys may say these Furbish words:
- doo?: What? (Furbys say this when called)
- doo-dah: Yes (Furbys say this in response to a command before doing it)
- boo: No (Furbys say this when they don't want to carry out a command)
- yoo?: Why will you not play with me today? (This usually means the Furby is upset)