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Culture

'Chatterbots' are as weird as they are annoying

WowWee's "interactive desktop companions" are more bizarre than cute.

WowWee

The way things are going, the desktop could turn into a personal menagerie of robotic creatures. First we had the "Nabaztag," which seemed interesting enough until it revealed its uglier side. Then there was the chirpy "i-Buddy" with its flapping wings. And now we have WowWee's "Chatterbots."

Like its predecessors, these "interactive desktop companions" hook up to the computer and respond when you get e-mail, instant messages, or other communication, as well as remind you of programmed calendar items. As you type certain keywords and phrases they can "let you know what's on their minds" because, after all, their mission is to "comment on your virtual life." Talk about irritating.

SlashGear provided a first-hand look at the dog version, finding it a fairly harmless distraction that can also play MP3 tunes. But we find the other two models much more disturbing: The "Devil/Angel" seems to suffer from Linda Blair-like schizophrenia, while the tutu-wearing "Fairy Godfather" clearly has personality issues of his own.

We might well recommend unleashing the "Tachikoma" robot to clean up the whole lot.