Robots are all the rage this summer as toys from the latest 'Transformers'
and 'Terminator' movies fill stores, and Carnegie Mellon University spinoff
Bossa Nova Robotics Inc. plans to start selling its own two playthings with
personalities in coming weeks on cable shopping channel QVC and online retailer
The yellow, gorilla-faced Prime
-8 and chubby pink penguin Penbo showed off
their tricks, speed and agility Thursday at an event at the Oakland
They're the first toys developed with technology from CMU's Robotics
Institute to debut commercially, but others are in the design and prototype
For consumers, 'The most successful application for robots so far is in the
toy business,' said John Feghali, one of Bossa Nova's three founders.
Inspired by Furby and other interactive toys, Prime
-8 and Penbo use mechanics
adapted from a cockroach-like robot named RHex created several years ago at CMU.
Both toys walk or run on two rotating limbs, Prime
-8 on his arms and Penbo on
They don't trip on carpet as many toy robots do, their creators say. And
using sensors, they respond to their owners' moves, play games and dance and
fall asleep if they're ignored. Blow a kiss to Penbo, and she'll kiss back.
-8, geared for boys ages 8 to 12, goes on sale for $99.99 on QVC on July
25. Penbo, for girls 4 to 6 and costing $69.99, will follow with her first TV
appearance in mid-August.
Amazon.com will feature both products starting Aug. 1, and they'll be in
stores for the holidays.
Feghali along with Bossa Nova cofounders David Palmer and Sarjoun Skaff
tested their play robots with children at Carnegie Science Center on the North
Shore. The toys will continue to be used there as part of the Robot Workshop at
the science center's new Roboworld, billed as the world's biggest permanent
Feghali, Palmer and Skaff met through CMU, shared a liking for bossa nova
music and talked about starting a robotics business.
They decided to make entertaining and educational toys that would be priced
competitively after watching a group of toddlers giggle as RHex chased them
around a campus lawn.
The partners founded their company four years ago, secured money from several
sources including the Pittsburgh Technology Council's annual EnterPrize contest,
and brought in former Mattel, Hasbro and MGA Entertainment executive Martin
Hitch as CEO.
While toy robots undoubtedly are popular with kids, gauging sales isn't easy.
Electronics claimed $865 million of the toy industry's total $21.6 billion in
sales last year, but interactive technology is showing up in lots of classic
playthings ranging from dolls to board games. The Japan Robotics Association
forecasts that the market for personal and lifestyle robots will grow to $15
billion by 2015.
For kids, 'Robotic toys are emulating what