Furby Hacking Project Invites Terrifying Modifications to Create "Social Robots"

Tuesday, 09 February 2016 - 12:05PM
Weird Science
Robotics
Tuesday, 09 February 2016 - 12:05PM
Furby Hacking Project Invites Terrifying Modifications to Create "Social Robots"
Furbies were somehow an immensely popular children's toy at one point, until we all collectively realized that they're horrifying minions of Satan:

Scary Furbies

But there's still some use for the now-defunct toys, as they have long held a certain fascination with hackers. Once you go down the rabbit hole of Furby hacking on the internet, you can find full, impressively scientific instructions for Furby autopsies and hacks, which involve skinning the Furby and manipulating its circuitry and sensors in order to make it do weird things, like read your email or sing in a choir. The 2012 edition of Furby (which I didn't know existed until now) has even been hacked to dance whenever you receive an email or get angry whenever someone retweets you.



Now, roboticists from the Wroclaw University of Technology in Poland have announced the Open Furby project, which aims to create "social robots" from Furbies in order to demonstrate how technology can be integrated into our everyday lives. This may sound like a stretch, considering that Furbies are relatively primitive and controlled using just one motor, but Brooklyn Furby hacker Lee von Kraus, who has posted detailed instructions on Instructables for opening up the Furby and modifying its sensors to detect heat and set off external alarms, claims that Furbies are unusual for providing a platform that allows hackers to control a wide variety of behaviors.

Opening quote
"There aren't many other platforms like it that allow you to do something cool by just hacking it," he told Gizmodo. "Like if you hack a remote control car, you can make it go faster, and that's pretty much it."
Closing quote

The project aims to inspire a hack that will allow anyone to control a Furby's limited behaviors using their PC, as well as smaller, showier modifications. This short video demonstrates the types of hacks Open Furby imagines for the Furbies, which will likely make them even more terrifying than they already were:



The technology is simplistic enough that the Open Furby team acknowledges that full behavioral control is out of the question, as the manufacturer doesn't allow for a full human-robot interaction platform. But still, hacks have already demonstrated that there is a possibility for a "social robot" to a certain extent, and this project is a cheap, easy, and silly way to explore the ways in which robotics can become a part of our daily lives.
Science
Technology
Weird Science
Robotics

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