>Just What All Kids Need: A Robotic Hamster

>Here’s another example of a story I saw before I left, but didn’t have the brains to deal with it in the way I wanted to. The story is about Target firing employees for buying Zhu Zhu Pets. Yeah, target can be dickheads. But what the story made me do was wonder why the Zhu Zhu Pets are so popular. I’d heard passing mention of them, but hadn’t paid attention. This story made me go look them up, and what I found made me think they sound like the dumbest thing ever.

Ok, apparently the Zhu Zhu Pets are robotic hamsters. They can either crawl around places, or sit there and be petted by your kids. It’s as if the Nano Baby and the Furby fell in love and produced an even dumber offspring.

Here’s why I say that. At least in theory, the Nano Baby asked for things. In practice, that often led to a lot of neglected Nano Babies or Nano Babies with batteries removed. But at least there was a small attempt to show that living things need things even when it’s not convenient for you. And I heard a theory that the furby was supposed to learn things. I don’t know how true it was, as I never owned a Furby. But this thing, as it is advertised, doesn’t even start off smart, even though they claim it has artificial intelligence.

This is what they call artificial intelligence. It recognizes the rooms in its special Zhu Zhu house and makes different noises depending on what room it’s in. How about no? That is straight up programming. The sensor picks up the sensors in the bathroom part of the Zhu Zhu house and then it makes toothbrush noises. Now, if it could figure out where your bathroom was on its own and make toothbrush noises when it got there, that would be artificial intelligence.

The other problem with their ad campaign is they say it helps your kids learn about pets without the responsibility or the mess. So…they don’t learn about pets at all. In fact, they get a false sense of what a pet is. They think a pet is something that you can tell what to do and they’ll do it. They think you hit a button on a pet’s back and it goes into explore mode, and you rub it on its head and it goes into reward mode, and when you’re done, you can just make your pet go to sleep. No! Pets have brains, are unpredictable, need stuff, and they tend to crap and pee.

What really sucks is these things are a novelty that is going to ware off. Then we’ll have lots of them finding out their new home is the Zhu Zhu dumpster. God I sound like an old lady writing this, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be right.

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