11. 21. 2005
I've often wondered why toy companies don't make an effort to make electronic toys like Aibos a little more tactilely appealing, more like teddy bears that kids want to fall asleep holding. Then I stumbled on the answer in the toy shop at Harrods when my niece brought over a mewling, cooing baby panda Fur-real friend that reached out for me with fur-covered mechanical zombie limbs. The combination of baby cooing and the crunch of the metal made my skin crawl. It's not that I expect to be genuinely fooled into thinking there's a sentient being inside the toy, but the clunky fur disguise actually would make it harder, I think, to warm up to the thing. Better to have something soft and realistic looking but doesn't actually talk or move and just imagine that it's real. Still, the Fur-real is pretty impressive and does a whole lot more than any doll I had as a kid (those topped out at being able to wet a diaper after being "fed"). Fur-real can slurp on its bottle, yawn, make faces and various baby noises, hug, giggle, burp, and play peek-a-boo. Maybe I do want one.
Fur-real friends, in Panda, Polar, and Brown varieties are $30 and available from Hasbro.
Related (sort of ):
Real baby pandas on the San Diego Zoo pandacam.