A Furby is an
electronic soft-toy made by Tiger Electronics
which went through a brief period of being a "must-have"
toy following its launch in 1998, selling for
hundreds of dollars. The plural of Furby is Furbys.
The main hook was their apparent "intelligence" and
learning ability as they developed their language
skills. It was thought, falsely, that they repeated
words said around them; this lead to several intelligence
agencies banning them from their offices. They
can also communicate with one another via an infrared
port. Furbys start out speaking entirely in Furbish,
a language with short words, simple syllables
and few phonemes, but are programmed to speak
less and less Furbish and more and more English
the more they "grow". Simple electronically-powered
motors close the Furby's eyes and lift it off
the ground in a faux display of mobility.
In appearance, the furby is a cross between a mouse, a cat,
and a bat or owl.
They are still popular with many hackers as they can be dissected
and made to do interesting things.
In 1999 the Furby babies line was introduced. Furby babies are smaller than the original, can't move their feet, but switch to speaking English quicker. A new version of the Furby is due to be released in the fall of 2005. The new Furby will be larger than the original, and have the ability to converse in English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese and Italian amongst other features.