|Hasbro says the new Furby is better, smarter and can even express a variety of moods.(Expected to debut in the fall; $39.99)|
|Hasbro's I-DOG will be available this fall; Price:$24.99. The toymaker this fall will also debut "Scamps" the playful robotic pup. (right, $49.99) Scamps recognizes 20 commands. Kids can teach it to "shake its paw" and bark on command.|
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Parents and kids, it's time to brush up on your "Furbish" cause that bug-eyed interactive furball toy called Furby is comin' back.
No. 2 toymaker Hasbro (Research) is set to debut the new and improved update to its 1998 toy phenomenon this fall.
The new Furby is larger than the original and will come in six different languages, including English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese and Italian.
"Furby was a worldwide hit when we introduced it seven years ago," said Allen Richardson, director of marketing for Hasbro. "It quickly became a must-have toy that cemented itself into the cultural landscape."
No doubt, industry watchers pegged Furby as one of the most popular and innovative toys of the 1990s with Hasbro selling over 40 million Furby toys between 1998 and 2001.
At the time, retailers couldn't stock the toy fast enough to meet the huge demand. Parents stood for hours on line awaiting new Furby shipment. Furby shortages during the holidays even became frontpage and primetime news stories.
"When Furby is leading the 6 O'Clock news, either there is something seriously wrong with our culture or this is a terrific product," said Chris Byrne, an independent toy analyst.
Byrne already is betting on Furby (II) to be the hit toy of 2005. Mr. Byrne says he does not receive payment from toy manufacturers for mentioning a specific product.
"Furby's return is a big deal, but in a good way," said Byrne. "In the past, Furby's play value was overshadowed by its fame. It became more a fad. Kids were collecting Furbys but not playing with them."
With the new Furby, Hasbro has given control of the play element to kids.
Added Byrne, "The advanced technology has made the redone Furby a richer toy than before in terms of depth and potential. It's a much better product, easier to play. It also thinks on its own, which is different from the original. And Hasbro also has the equity and popularity of the toy to back it up. "
Hasbro's Richardson explained that the most noticeable differences from the original Furby is that new version of the toy uses "Emoto-Tronics," which is a combination of robotic technology, puppetry and realistic lifelike reactions and movements.
"Emoto-Tronics allows Furby to react based on how a child interacts with it," said Richardson. "It can show lifelike emotions, smile, laugh, frown, has amazing eye and beak flexibility. It can also simulate breathing, with its belly moving in and out and even produce an audible gasp."
Furby creatures also speak, dance, sing, tell jokes and play games and has the ability to speak hundreds of programmed words and phrases in Furbish and English.
The toys will be available in white, black and white, gray and pink, and brown and pink. Each toy has a pricetag of $39.99.
Richardson said he's confident of the new Furby's success. "Our consumer affairs division still gets calls from people asking about the old Furby. In 1998, the technology was limited but we still had a breakthrough with Furby. We've taken a year to work on this new version and the technology is simply amazing."
An I-Dog companion for the iPod
While Furby is a nod to a fad of the past, Hasbro is also cleverly staying in-tune with the trends of today.
"The best-selling entertainment product last year with tweens wasn't a toy, it was the iPod. Hasbro this year is really taking advantage of this opportunity and going after the 8 to 11 year olds with innovative products such as the I-DOG," said Jim Silver, an industry analyst and publisher of the Toy Book and Toy Wishes magazines.
The I-DOG is actually a music interactive robo-pet developed by the company's Tiger Electronics division. Expected to debut in the fall, it's a palm-sized electronic pooch that responds to music by dancing along to whatever song that you're listening to.
You can either plug the I-DOG into a headphone jack of any handheld music system or simply sit it in front of a speaker and it will wiggle its head and ears and even sway to the music.
"We needed something for the kids of today. Tweens love music, they love their MP3 players. So we thought this would be a terrific companion for them," said Duncan Billing," Hasbro's chief marketing officer.
I-DOG has sensors on its tail, nose and head. Pat its head and it becomes cheerful. Tap it on its nose to wake up the "sleeping" I-DOG
I-DOG's mood changes according to the type of music you're listening to, said Billing. For instance, rock and punk makes it rebellious, classical and country relaxes it and pop and R&B makes I-DOG happy.
"This is a very clever move by Hasbro," said Silver. "The I-DOG is a great impulse buy. What little girl wouldn't fall in love with this product? It's playful and a fun add-on to the iPod. Even adults would I-DOG."