The current Furby model (2012–present); depicted is the Voodoo Purple version.
Type Electronic toy
Inventor David Hampton
Company Tiger Electronics
(2005-2007, 2012-present)
Country  United States
Availability 1998–2002, 2005–2007, 2012–present
Slogan Let's Have Fun
Your Emoto-Tronic Friend
A mind of its own
Official website

A Furby is an American electronic robotic toy released in 1998 by Tiger Electronics. It resembles a hamster or owl-like creature and went through a period of being a "must-have" toy following its holiday season launch, with continual sales until 2000. Over 40 million Furbies were sold during the three years of its original production, with 1.8 million sold in 1998, and 14 million in 1999. Its speaking capabilities were translated into 24 languages.

Furbies were the first successful attempt to produce and sell a domestically-aimed robot. A newly purchased Furby starts out speaking entirely Furbish, the unique language that all Furbies use, but is programmed to start using English words and phrases in place of Furbish over time. This process is intended to resemble the process of learning English.[1] The updated Emoto-Tronic Furby, with voice-recognition and more complex facial movements, was sold by Hasbro between 2005-2007. They released another updated Furby with LCD eyes and a mobile app for the holiday season in 2012.


Initial creation

Dave Hampton and Caleb Chung spent nine months creating the Furby (in addition to nine months spent designing the toy). After two attempts at licensing the concept, they invited fellow toy and game inventor Richard C. Levy to join their efforts to sell Furby. Levy brought Furby to Tiger Electronics and Tiger's Roger Shiffman bought the rights to it. Furby's first public appearance was at the American International Toy Fair in 1998.[2][3][4][5]

Furby toy from McDonalds

Furbies originally retailed for about US$35,[6] and upon release, they sold extremely well. Catapulting demand during the 1998 Christmas period drove the resale price over $100, and sometimes as high as several hundred dollars. Furbies sold for over $300 in newspapers and in auctions. Nicknames were given to them, and sellers assigned rarity values to them. Some people continue to call their Furbies by the terms "wedding Furby", "tuxedo Furby", "snowball Furby", "biker Furby", among others. All, of course, were dubbed rare by sellers, because they were so hard to find at the time. In a sure display of the demand for the toy, some sellers scammed people out of a great sum of money, without even having first given them a Furby. Parental battles, arguments, and fights increased rapidly as supplies dwindled, and when retail supplies ran out, parents turned to the Internet, where Furbies could be purchased for two, three, or more multiples of their retail price. During one 12-month period, a total of 27 million Furby toys were sold.[7]

2005 revival

2005 saw the reintroduction of Furby with the release of the new Emoto-Tronic Furby.

2012 revival

On April 12, 2012, it was announced that Hasbro will be making a new line of Furbies, which was released in September 2012.[8] As of December 2012 there are sixteen colors. They are teal, white, black, purple, tangerine-tango, yellow, aqua, navy blue, plum, pink, pink/teal, orange/blue, black/pink, blue/yellow, teal/purple, gray/teal.[9] Furbies were one of the eleven toys named top toys for Christmas 2013 by the Toy Retailers Association at the DreamToys Convention where they unveil their predictions for most popular holiday toys annually.[10]

Furby types

Classic Furbies

The main reason for their popularity was because of apparent "intelligence", reflected in their ability to develop language skills.

Furbies can communicate with one another via an infrared port located between their eyes. Furbies start out speaking entirely Furbish, a language with short words, simple syllables, and various other sounds. They are programmed, however, to speak less and less Furbish and more and more English as they "grow".

There was a common misconception that they repeated words that were said around them. This belief most likely stemmed from the fact that it is possible to have the Furby say certain pre-programmed words or phrases more often by petting it whenever it said these words. As a result of this myth, several intelligence agencies banned them from their offices.[11]

A simple electric motor and a system of cams and gears close the Furby's eyes and mouth, raise its ears, and lift it off the ground in a faux display of mobility.

The originals are still popular with many hackers as they can be dissected and made to do interesting things. In particular, their advanced audio capabilities and various sensory interfaces make them popular with the circuit bending community.[12][13]

Other Furbies

Furby Babies

In 1999, the Furby Babies line was introduced. Furby Babies are smaller than the original, have higher voices, and cannot dance, but they switch to speaking English more quickly. They also have an extended vocabulary and different "Easter eggs" and "games" built into them. Furby babies come in 24 different colors. All have white eyelashes and one of six different eyecolors.

Furby Friends

Novel Furbies were also released, including an interactive Furby-like "Gizmo", from the film Gremlins, a Furby-like "Interactive Yoda" based on the Star Wars character, and a Furby-like "Interactive E.T." from the movie of the same name. Another "friend of Furby", called "Shelby", is similar to Furby, but looks like a clam, has vast improvements in memory, and has a different personality; it was released in 2001 and can communicate with the original Furbies and Furby Babies. They also have sensors that can sense loud sounds, can sense being upside down (they say things like "Shiver me timbers" and "Walk the plank" when you leave them upside-down for an extended period of time), and they laugh when you "tickle" them (their antennae – or "tennies", as they like to call them). They also purr when you "pet" them. You can feed them by sticking your finger in their mouth. Similarly, Shelbies do not have their own names, unlike the classic Furbies. Shelbies are also capable of knowing if it is talking to a Furby or another Shelby, saying phrases such as "Where's Furby?"—though they cannot differentiate between a Furby and a Furby Baby—they just assume it is a Furby. In addition to English, Shelbies also know some Furbish words and also have their own unique language called Shelbish.

Emoto-Tronic Furbies

This Furby was released in August 2005. Larger than the previous version, the new Furbies have been upgraded with a more emotional face and a voice recognition system, enabling them to communicate with humans. Unlike the Furbies originally released, just one order is necessary to make them 'sleep', and they have an on/off switch. They can communicate with other Emoto-tronic Furbies, though to a lesser extent than the communication between original Furbies, and they cannot themselves communicate with the original Furbies nor Funky Furbies. They also lack light sensors and basic motion sensors and do not respond to loud sounds as the originals do. These Furbies, according to the story they come packed with, are from Furby Island.

Emoto-Tronic Furby Babies

In 2006, a new version of Furby baby was released, with most notable features being the new look and a more "baby-ish" appearance in contrast to the Emoto-Tronic Furby adult. They also have considerably fewer features than the "adult" Furby, with a very limited vocabulary and a lower level of interactivity. Another notable feature of the 2006 Emoto-Tronic Baby Furby is the movable "legs" which unfurl when Furby baby is awake. Although they were a European exclusive, they were sold in the US via the Hasbro Toy Shop website.

Emoto-Tronic Funky Furbies

The Funky Furbies were released in August 2006 outside the United States. They are limited to two color combinations (pink & yellow and purple & green) so far, and they can sing three new songs and dance. They can be taught dance routines and remember them.

2012 Furbies

A new Furby was released in the fall of 2012. It has more expressive LCD eyes, a wider range of motions, its own iOS and Android app, and the ability to adapt its personality in reaction to user behavior.[14] The on-off switch is replaced with a reset button; the Furby turns itself off after one minute of inactivity.

Furby Party Rockers

Furby's smaller friends launched March 2013 and unlike their full-sized Furby companions, which grow and learn through human interaction, each Party Rocker is born with its own unique personality, making ready to interact with its owner straight from the box. There are four Furby Party Rockers, called Twitby, Fussby, Scoffby and Loveby.[15]

Furby Boom

In summer of 2013, about a year after the Furby 2012 came out, a new Furby was released with new different colors and new Personalities. It has a brand new iOS and Android (operating system) app, called Furby BOOM, with many new features.[16][17]

Furblings (toy version)

In June 2014, a toy version of the Furblings from the Furby Boom app were released along with a Golden limited time one. It can communicate to Furby Booms, and can be used the app too.

Furby Boom Crystal

The release for Christmas 2014 is called the Furby BOOM Crystal Series, with a redesign of the ears, face and feet and a new bright neon fur. The iOS and Android apps have also been redesigned.[18]

Furby Boom Crystal Furblings

In early 2015, it announced toy version of the Furby Boom Crystal Furblings from the app were released. Like the other Furblings, it can communicate with Furby Boom Crystals, and be used with the app.


In June 2015, a Furby that resembles Chewbacca from Star Wars was released. It is similar to the Furby Boom because it can hatch Furblings with the same app and more. It is known as the Wookie Furby and the new Furby Friend. Star War Furblings might release 2016.

Security concerns

On January 13, 1999, it was reported the National Security Agency of the United States identified what was believed to be a spy that may have infiltrated its inner sanctums, describing it as "being less than a foot high, covered with red and orange fur, with watchful eyes and big ears". The description matched Furby, which some of the NSA's employees brought to work to ease stress. Shortly afterwards, the establishment banned Furbies from entering NSA's property due to concerns that they may be used to record and repeat classified information, advising those that see any on NSA property to "contact their Staff Security Officer for guidance."[19][20][21]

Roger Shiffman, the owner of Tiger Electronics, stated that "Furby has absolutely no ability to do any recording whatsoever," and would have gladly told the NSA this if he was asked from anyone from the spy agency.[22] Additionally, Dave Hampton demonstrated that Furby's microphone can't record any sound at all, and can only hear a single monotonous beep if a loud sound is produced around Furby, and no words or waveforms can be made out at all. He too was never questioned by the NSA, and he could have answered both questions easily. The ban was eventually withdrawn.

Furbish-English phrases

"Furbish" is the Furbies' language, with simple syllables, short words, and various sounds. A newly purchased Furby starts out speaking entirely in Furbish. Over time, the Furby gradually replaces Furbish words and phrases with English.

Furbies may say these Furbish words:

Film adaptation

Bob Weinstein announced in November 2016 that a Furby film adaptation is to be produced by The Weinstein Company.[23] The film will contain both live action and computer-animated characters.[24] In regards to the film's narrative, Hasbro executive Stephen Davis stated that "we think that this can resonate as a four-quadrant film. It can’t just be a 90-minute commercial."[24][25]


  1. Encounters with Kismet and Cog: Children Respond to Relational Artifacts (PDF), MIT, 2004-09-30, retrieved 2009-04-20
  2. David Banks (2002-06-18). "Furby Co-Inventor Richard Levy". NPR. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
  3. "Inventor of the Week: Archive". Web.mit.edu. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
  4. Sloane, Julie (2002-07-01). "Game Theories The man who made the Furby fly explains how he comes up with his ideas. - July 1, 2002". Money.cnn.com. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
  5. Archived March 6, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. "New toy an interactive fur ball". CNN. 1998-10-05. Retrieved 2007-07-13.
  7. Collecting, Furbys. "Furbys & Furby Collecting". Yes. Word CollectorsNet. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  8. "Furby's Coming Back! Five Things to Know About This Iconic Toy". E! Online. 2012-04-12. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
  9. Hasbro, Electronics. "Furby". Yes. Hasbro. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  10. "Top Toys for Christmas 2013".
  11. "Furby a threat to national security?". CNN. 1999-01-13. Archived from the original on 2006-08-28. Retrieved 2006-12-18.
  12. Circuit-bent Furby on YouTube
  13. Kevin Rees. "Furby Bending Tutorial". Circuit-Bent.Net. Retrieved 2008-01-09.
  14. 8/24/12 12:00pm 8/24/12 12:00pm. "The New Furby Review: Absolute Horror". Gizmodo.com. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
  15. "Furby Party Rockers". Furby Party Rockers. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
  16. "Furby Boom". PCMAG.
  17. "Furby that interacts with iPads is among 'must-have' Christmas toys". Telegraph.co.uk. 30 October 2014.
  18. "Furby Boom Crystal Series Review". Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  19. "BBC News - Americas - Furby toy or Furby spy?". bbc.co.uk.
  20. "Furbies banned at US spy base". The Independent.
  21. "CNN - Furby a threat to national security? - January 13, 1999". archive.org. Archived from the original on August 26, 2006.
  22. "Secret agent Furby sneaks into spies' inner sanctum". The Guardian. 14 January 1999. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  23. McNary, Dave (2 November 2016). "AFM: Bob Weinstein Unveils Furby Movie for TWC-Dimension". Variety. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  24. 1 2 Anderton, Ethan (4 November 2016). "There's a Furby Movie in the Works, Because That Toy Was a Thing Once". /Film. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  25. Hooton, Christopher (4 November 2016). "This goddamn Furby movie better be a psychological thriller". The Independent. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
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