Behind an Interactive Toy Phenomenon: What Makes Furbies Tick

Furbies, the endearing interactive toys that captured the hearts of millions in the 1990s, are about to reach a new generation of children, as Hasbro has recently announced a fifth generation Furby.

The first four major releases of Furby saw the toy evolve to incorporate new features and designs while maintaining their distinctive charm.


The original Furby, released in 1998 by Tiger Electronics, set the stage for a new era of interactive toys. With its soft fur, large expressive eyes, and beak-like mouth, the toy quickly became a must-have companion for children and adults alike.

Equipped with rudimentary sensors, it could respond to touch, sound, and even light. Each Furby spoke “Furbish” out of the box, a babbling language that would gradually evolve into one of more than 20 other languages as it “learned” from its interactions with users.

FUN FACT: In 1999, Furbies caused quite a stir when they were banned by several government institutions, including The Pentagon and the NSA. The reason for the ban was a prevailing concern that the toys had the potential to record sensitive information – a claim that was later proven false.


In 2005, Hasbro debuted the Emoto-Tronic Furby. This Furby had enhanced capabilities, including a larger vocabulary and a wider range of emotional responses. This was made possible by more advanced sensors and animatronics that allowed for more expressive movements and gestures.

The Emoto-Tronic Furby was roughly double the size of its predecessor and featured plastic feet, more detailed facial features, and a rubber beak. It had improved voice recognition and could communicate with other Furbies by touching them together, a process known as capacitive coupling.

FUN FACT: If purchased from the official Hasbro Toy Shop website, new Emoto-Tronic Furbies were accompanied by an official Certificate of Authenticity.

FURBY (2012)

Seven years after the release of Emoto-Tronic Furbies, Hasbro released a third-generation model. The 2012 Furby featured a modernized appearance with larger eyes, a more rounded body, and a wider range of available colors and patterns.

Through a dedicated phone app, owners could connect this Furby to iOS or Android devices and gain access a variety of interactive features. Kids could feed their Furbies from an interactive pantry and access a Furbish-to-English translator.

The 2012 Furby also had a more complex personality system, including different character traits that were influenced by the owner’s interactions. The toy used ComAir, a form of ultrasound, to communicate with others.

FUN FACT: The six different personality traits of Furby 2012 were categorized as Viking, Popstar/Diva, Chatterbox, Princess, Crazy, and Default.


At the time of its release, Furby Connect was the largest and most advanced Furby to date. This design featured large LCD eyes, translucent feet, a tail, and an antenna that glowed different colors when it moved.

This Furby had expressive animations and visuals that captivated children. The Furby Connect also took interactivity to a new level. Through Bluetooth, this model could connect to a Furby Connect World mobile app, which could be used to download regular updates to the toy.

FUN FACT: Furby Connect supported only two languages: English and Russian.


Since its introduction, Furby has delighted children and adults alike. Through its increasingly realistic interactive abilities, Furby has left an indelible mark on popular culture.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Hasbro continues this trend with the latest next-gen Furby!

Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.

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