With Bandai America gearing up to launch a new-and-improved Tamagotchi line this August, we may very well be staring down the barrel of a virtual pet trend revival. And at least one company is hoping to catch a ride on Bandai’s coattails. New York’s Genio Group is introducing an AI-powered guinea pig created and manufactured by Belgian toyco Cutting Edge Toys. Genio will distribute Gupi (pronounced Goopy) in North America starting this fall.
Besides honing in on an untapped breed of digipet, Gupi uses voice overlay technology and an Internet connection that apes instant-messaging functionality to let as many as five kids have real-time conversations with each other on-line. Kids use the ears to control Gupi and talk to their friends using his internal wireless microphone and speakers. Gupi will work from anywhere in the house, as long as the Internet is turned on.
But Gupi is more than just a cute, high-tech telephone. Employing sensors and voice recognition technology, the little pig has been programmed to have a personality all his own. ‘When you first take Gupi out of the box, he hides and runs to where it’s dark,’ says Genio executive VP Bruce Holland. ‘But when you start stroking him, he calms down and becomes playful, making all kinds of sounds and giggling. Essentially, you socialize him.’ For example, if you comfort Gupi 10 times, he learns not to be so afraid of his environment.
Sensors in the toy’s eyes and nose allow Gupi to navigate around obstacles, and he can even be trained to go from one place to another. The toy is also capable of playing pre-recorded messages and weekly stories that can be downloaded from the web at www.genioinc.com. Gupi’s battery lasts around 10 hours and recharges in roughly 40 minutes using a carrot-shaped adaptor that fits in his mouth.
With a suggested pricetag of US$79, Gupi will ship to mass and specialty toy outlets and electronics chains in September, supported by a simultaneous TV and print ad campaign.