CES: robots for girls?

Now that robot toys have started to take off, their creators are starting to make an effort to differentiate the robots for boys and girls. I will spare you my rants about this philosophy for right now and instead talk about what these "girl robots" are and how they differ from their male-oriented counterparts. While I have no doubt that these toys will be popular with the younger girls I know, it's very interesting to see how these robots' creators are tweaking robotic technology in ways they think will best appeal to both genders.

First off is the Femisapien that I talked about a couple of days ago. Arguably the most empowered of the girly toys, she dances, poses, and generally looks awesome. She was made to be Robosapien's girlfriend, and according to one of the Wowwee reps I talked to at the booth, they can not only communicate with one another when in the same vicinity, but Femisapien appropriately speaks "emotish" while Robosapien speaks "caveman." Yes, she emotes and he grunts. She can reportedly order him around, too, though I didn't see any Femi-Robo interaction to verify this.

Spykee Miss and Vox

Spykee Vox and angel-winged Spykee Miss, above, are the yin and yang of Erector's Spykee models. Both are identical voice-activated, programmable, universal IR remote controlling robots that double as iPod docks. Their differences begin the moment you take them out of the box: while both are delivered in pieces that must be assembled, Miss has only one configuration while Vox has three different configurations that the owner can play with. Miss's configurability is related to accessories -- plastic hearts and stars, for example -- that can be attached to her arms or skirt. Their AI personalities are unique: on the MIss, you can choose "friendly" or "mean", and she gives advice in response to spoken questions. On the Vox, you can choose "hero" or "villain" and make him fight by shooting imaginary laser beams.

Wowwee FlyTech toys

Finally, Wowwee also had their FlyTech line of fluttering and flying gadgets -- they're not quite robots, though each has varying degrees of simple remote control and navigation or obstacle avoidance capabilities. There's a neat helicopter that can engage in aerial dogfights with another helicopter... and then there are fairies and butterflies that can be launched and will fly around the room.

Beyond the softer design and pink and purple coloring, will the functional differences in these robots really appeal more to girls? Are these versions as likely to get girls interested in robots as a technical interest, or will they just be another toy? If these are the "girl" toys, does this mean until now the toys they've produced have only been "boy" toys?



IEEE Spectrum’s award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:  e.guizzo@ieee.org

Erico Guizzo
New York City
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.

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