Hasbro's Furby, that weird, warbling piece of toy nostalgia that just won't die, continues on in 2016. This year, however, Furby wants to stay connected via Bluetooth, receiving new information. It might know what time it is, or what the World Series scores are. Furby. Will. Know.
That's the pitch for Furby Connect, a toy that might seem all-sentient but isn't really. The new Furby uses Bluetooth to receive occasional updates when paired to iOS, Android or Amazon Fire devices via Hasbro Furby Connect app. Furby might suddenly become obsessed with a real song via lyrics supplied by a partnership with Kidz Bop, or some other weird thing. It might potentially get sports scores or news pushed to it. It might wish you happy Thanksgiving.
But nothing immediately on-demand, and nothing location-based. Amazon Echo with fur, this is not. Furby is strictly getting once-in-a-while push updates via Hasbro's app, and to protect kid privacy none of it has location awareness.
Unfortunately, that means Furby might not seem that much smarter than his totally unconnected ancestors at times. In a landscape filled with seemingly far smarter robot super-toys like the Anki Cozmo and Hello Barbie, can little Furby keep up? Furby can at least get info downloaded in a burst so it can be played away from any app for a week. It's not meant to be always-on, just to feel like it is.
We haven't used one with the app beyond a brief demo, which was cute but very similar to Furbies of the past. If another Furby Connect is placed nearby, however, the two now do more in-sync dancing, bickering, and Furby-wiggling. It's one stop short of a "Gremlins" reboot.
A few new tricks are on-board, too: its eyes are now full-color screens, and a glowing antenna on its head turns blue when it gets an update, and other hues for emotions. (Down the road, Hasbro mentioned it could even turn into a joystick for in-app games, if you're comfortable with that.) Furby is, as always, packed with motion sensors, motors, and has a microphone and speaker (in case you didn't know).
Best of all, Furby will go to sleep on command for the first time ever. An included sleep mask plugs into its eyes and makes it turn off, complete with gentle bedtime gurgles. Then it's safe to toss in your kid's bed or a drawer, where it shouldn't make any noise -- unlike older Furby models, which required a battery removal to shut them up. Until you remove the mask. Hasbro has hinted that the sleep-mask port near Furby Connect's eyes could be used for "other surprises" down the road. What are those surprises? Much like Furby, that remains a mystery.
It's available right now exclusively via Amazon for $100, and will hit other stores this fall.