No two real dogs are alike. They differ in temperament, character and appearance. That’s why we love them. Now, WowWee thinks it can bring that one-in-a-million cuteness to robot dogs.
Back when robot games were a thing, it was exotic and close to the uncanny valley (Opens in a new tab) It was often part of her appeal. Leading the charge on this mission has been WowWee, who have sold a series of whimsical robot figures from Robosapiens to Roboraptor (Opens in a new tab) It was all surprisingly strange.
But the robot’s wilt has faded, and its interests have shifted from physical to screen-based pleasure. Robot games are mostly gone, and blind surprise games have arrived in their place (Opens in a new tab): You often buy invisible eggs, all for the chance of tearing them apart to discover an array of figurines and plush toys.
WowWee didn’t just sit around watching the demise of robot toys, it turned to things like Fingerlings (Opens in a new tab) and Avastars (Opens in a new tab). Robots were never forgotten, but returning to them required a change of perspective: they couldn’t be more expensive; It can’t be just another bot. The company ended up taking inspiration from two unexpected spaces: NFTs and blind games.
The result is the Mintid Dog-E, which was unveiled here at CES 2023 in Las Vegas. He’s initially a cute-looking all-white robot puppy, but that lackluster demeanor is part of the game’s genius. You see, no one knows when they buy the $79.99 ($99.99 in Canada) game (in October) what kind of robot dog they’re getting. All personality and life is hidden in sleeping engines, powered LED lights, cute folded ears, and a standing tail that does something I’ve never seen on a robotic dog before.
Opening the Dog-E crate and turning it on first makes the puppy, which then sets in motion the robot toy it will become. The ears open and light up, as do the eyes, chest, and paws. The custom mix of distinctive lights and colors tells you what kind of robot dog you’ve got, as the tail vibrates furiously. The latter goes so fast that the taillights (yes, I said that) use the persistence of motion to spell out words and get Dog-E messages to you. In prototype I saw this move produced a loud beep but WowWee execs insist it will be sorted by the time Dog-E hits shelves.
WowWee pairs the Dog-E app with an app (iOS or Android) where you can interact with your pup Tamagotchi-style, offer treats and food, and track things like hunger, happiness, and love.
The same app can also be used to remotely control and move the robot on its wheeled feet. There may be a separate app to enable E-Dog’s STEM-based programming features where users will be able to plot a series of robo-dog actions.
However, in my brief interaction with Dog-E, I found that it didn’t need any remote management. She responds to touch and will lunge forward in excitement. He barks and makes other sounds and can hear your voice too. I can catch Dog-E with his plastic tongue sticking out of his head and licking my face.
As part of the one-in-a-million dog concept, traits such as the tongue will be allocated. Different colored tabs may indicate a rare Dog-E find (gold would be very rare). The app will tell you what kind of dog you have, but you can also elicit that by sharing Dog-E. A Chihuahua, for example, will move much faster than, say, a bulldog.
While you can grow and develop your own Dog-E, you can use the app to mint multiple robotic puppies into a single dog. Switching profiles (up to 11) will result in different pets for Dog-E. WowWee even imagines a kid might not like the robot friend he ended up with, remembering his dog E.
Dog-E will ship with what looks like a sock chew toy. It has a built in squeaker toy that, when squeaked, will stop Dog-E in its tracks. The magnet will pair with a magnet in Dog-E’s nose so he can start pulling and playing with it. On the prototype I saw, the nose was a button, but that may change by the time the Dog-E ships later this year.
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