R2-D2 battles with Robosapien

Popular programmable bot is getting some serious competition from an old-school droid this holiday season. Photos: R2-D2 in your price range?

Robosapien, a burping, kung-fu fighting robot, is one of this year's hot Christmas gifts. But an older, pudgier counterpart--an out-of-production R2-D2 robot from "Star Wars"--is proving a popular item on eBay.

Both robots are supposed to sell for about $100, according to retailers. But Wow Wee's Robosapien, a "fusion of technology and personality," as its toy maker puts it, can be found for as little as $89 on e-commerce sites such as Amazon.com, while the R2-D2 droid is attracting bids upward of $250.

"These (R2-D2s) are getting harder to find, and the value just keeps going up," one eBayer said on his Web site. "They are no longer available for sale anywhere except eBay and collectible stores."

The robot battle is a reminder of eBay's growing stature as a toy seller during the holiday season. Online auction sites allow shoppers to find toys they never would have seen otherwise, upping the ante in the shopping wars. Some eBay categories: "Vintage (pre-1970) Mah Jong," "Graham Farish model railroad trains" and "Howdy Doody."

One "new in box, never opened" R2-D2 that was put up for sale at about $50 had drawn 16 bids up to $257.50 as of Friday morning. An R2-D2 out of the box with some scratches and a photocopied owner's manual can be snapped up for less, but typically goes for more than $100.

The "Star Wars" droid, which can hold a 12-ounce Coca-Cola (or can of Bud) with a retractable arm, was made by Hasbro and Industrial Automation.

Robosapien is no slouch, however. Designed by a scientist, it performs 67 preprogrammed functions including "kung fu." Retailers confirm that the programmable bot is a hot seller. The Sharper Image's e-commerce site even includes a video of Robosapien in action: "Robosapien's eyes flash, he talks, grunts, burps, roars, raps, and he...oops (something he ate?)."

Still, some consumers are unimpressed. "What a huge disappointment," one user said on a message board. "I think I will just continue saving for that Aibo, or try and find R2-D2 on eBay."

As for Sony's Aibo, that robot--a dog, no less--goes for $1,900.

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    Jeff Pelline is editor of CNET News.com. Jeff promises to buy a Toyota Prius once hybrid cars are allowed in the carpool lane with solo drivers.

     

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