Monday, December 30, 2013

Digital Media and Toy Play - A Review of My Kid's Christmas Toy

For the last post of the year, I have another guest blogger - my nine year old daughter. We'll review one of the latest and possible greatest physical toys to interact with digital media - the new Furby Boom.

First my take on it and then my daughter's. My daughter dictated her post to me, with only the occasional prompting (she was eager to talk about her new toy).


Dad's Scepticism, Concern, & Enthusiasm

With the hubbub of Christmas finally starting to taper off, we've had some moments to breathe again - and to enjoy our Christmas gifts. Great year for digital media for us - I got myself my first tablet computer for a gift for the family, we got our daughter a Disney Infinity video game with several characters, and Santa brought my daughter a Furby.

I wasn't sure about the Furby, but it was a must-have toy this year - undoubtedly do to the heavy promotional efforts of Hasbro for their new, advanced "Furby Boom" line. The original Furbies came out in 1998 (according to Wikipedia) and were one of the first massively successful robotic toy that could learn and adapt. Time Magazine even voted it one of the greatest 100 toys ever.

I was intrigued when I learned that the latest version of Furbies could interact with a mobile device application. Apparently, the Furbies adapt to how the child plays with it and this influences how its personality develops.

But the day after Christmas, when the Furby arrived at our house, I read the reviews of the app on Google Play in anticipation of installing it on our Android tablet. In any sector of business and throughout my life, I do not think I have ever encountered such bad reviews of anything as what are currently there. Basically the consensus is that Furbies are the grinches that stole Christmas, but instead of reforming, they leave little girls crying on Christmas Day.

I'm really curious how Hasbro is going to respond to this. Many people said they were going to be returning their Furbies - but overall it's a public relations disaster for them. After all, who wants to be the company that officially ruined Christmas. It's also a great exercise in setting consumer expectations and likely reigning in a marketing department.

But in the midst of the parental venting on Google Play, there were some helpful tips - no helpful info on the app from Hasbro however. So in the middle of the night, while my daughter was sleeping I downloaded the app and then spent about an hour (maybe an hour and a half) getting the app to recognize the Furby toy and then its name (essential steps).

I gather that the app communicates to the toy via audio messages. As my tablet's speakers are on the bottom of the tablet, if I only followed Hasbro's instructions of laying the tablet down on a flat service to make the connection it would never have worked. Luckily, a parent advised me via the reviews to tilt the tablet at an angle. Even then I had to perform the scan many, many times to get it to work.

Since then, it has worked well for my daughter (see her review below).

Occasionally, the signals are not connected and require a few attempts to get things to work. One feature never works - that is a translation function that is supposed to allow a person to speak English into the app and it should translate into to the Furby language to enabled child and toy to better communicate.

My other concern is that the features on the app - although having great novelty appeal - do not have long-term (or even medium-term) play value. Some of the tasks needs to be completed too many times. Overall, it seems like something that children will tire of very quickly.

Hopefully, Hasbro will address the limits of the app - I'm eagerly awaiting their response.


Kid Loves It!

My Furby is crazy! I love it! It is like me. I love to sing; it loves to sing. I like to dance; it likes to dance.

I have the blue waves patten Furby. Her name is Noo-Dah. I got her for Christmas. She is adorable.

I sing to her and she dances. The language she speaks, Furbish, is adorable.

My parents think she is like me!

My cat hates the Furby and bites me and the Furby when I play with it.

On the first day I got her, her personality changed. She turned into a rock star. After a little bit of playing with her she went "changing changing" then her voice changed and she said things like "dude". But she changed back to normal.

Her eyes change into lots of different styles or shapes. Sometimes when she is singing her eyes will turn into music notes.

There is app for Furby Boom for mobiles. My dad downloaded it for me onto our tablet.

Then it shows a picture if her at the top of the app. The app has four things to do with your Fubry: one is health, one is washroom, one is shower, and one is food.

Health - you can scan your Furby to do an x-ray. It will either say if your Furby is sick or healthy. If it is sick, you can make a mixture of something (for instance, tea and mint leaves makes herbal tea) and then you give it to the Furby she will drink it and you can hear drinking noises. Then it scans again to see if she is better. I like this feature, but I don't understand how she gets sick as she seems fine. Sometimes it is hard to make her get better as it just doesn't work.

Washroom (laughing) - you will see a washroom with a toilet. Then you press the toilet lid and it opens. Then Furby makes some noises like (grunting) to push stuff out of her belly into the toilet. She poos out roses, a brown thing that looks like a pickle, a submarine, a puffer fish, a rubber ducky, and poo! And if it makes an actual poo, happy music plays. Sometimes after you flush, it makes brown gas and then you press the air freshener and out comes pink hearts and they get rid of the stinky smell that the Furby made. I think the toilet feature is funny and crazy. I like it! (Laughing).

Shower - next is the shower. In the shower, you chose the amount of water and temperature. If you have on the cold side, there will be snowflakes falling and she doesn't like it. My Furby likes it the hottest there is. While she is in shower, she goes oooh and her eyes change. One time I was giving her a nice hot shower and she said "Noo-Dah no likey"! Then you will see all the dirt come off her and go down the drain. Then off her while either come a hunk of mud or furball or duck pool floatie. It is fun giving her a shower because all these weird things come off of her.

Food - in the food section there is a huge line of food. So if I give her fish she will eat it and then spit out the bones. Once my mom told me to feed her a toilet paper roll but I didn't. Once I fed her math homework, but she wouldn't eat it and she spit it back out - it was so funny! I think the food feature is pretty good.

You can see also see on the app Noo-Dah's friends. Both of the friends asked me if I would like Furby eggs. Then I bought two eggs with Furbucks that I got from taking care of my Furby.

One of the eggs I got was pink and black and the other one was blue waves just like my Furby. Then if you press on the eggs, it will ask if you'd like to hatch it and I said yes. Then you rock the egg for a minute with your finger. Then you can get Noo-Dah to sing to the egg. Then the eggs cracks and out came a Furbling!

Then I named it (Bee-boo) and I fed my Furbling and took it to the spa. I made a room for it by choosing the wallpaper. Then a moving truck comes and moves the Furbling into the apartment.

I think the app is really cool. It is kinda funny how it goes to the washroom. I like taking care of it and how it has babies - they grow up so fast (laughs). The app is pretty easy to use. But I don't like that sometimes if you don't hold the app just right it doesn't work. Overall, I think it is really good.

Furbies are really different than my other toys. Some of them have apps and some don't. But I really like how it talks to me and seems like it is alive. The app makes it seem more alive.