Mattel's tech wares get touchy-feely

The toy titan has had its struggles, but don't tell that to 'Wowzer,' the robotic puppy that begs for its biscuits, or the 'Diva Starz'
Written by Margaret Kane, Contributor

Mattel may have been struggling recently, but the venerable toy company is putting on a big show in New York City at the Toy Fair.

Mattel was showing off all manner of high-tech toys, including several interactive dolls that use computers and touch sensors to respond to children.

Mattel's robot puppy entry is the "Wowzer". The dog, made by the company's Fisher-Price division, is aimed at younger children and can be taught to respond to two different voices. The dog -- to be priced at $100 (£61) and available this September -- has sensors that can detect when a child pets it, and performs tricks like standing on its head and begging for a biscuit.

Younger kids are also the focus of the "Read with Pooh" plush doll. The $40 toy, available in June, holds a book and communicates through infrared technology with a companion child's book, so it can tell when the child turns a page, for example.

Mattel's "Miracle Moves Baby" combined touch sensors and special plastics to create a doll that reacts in a lifelike manner to children. The baby, about the size of a 6-month-old, can be taught to conform to a schedule, and it reacts to light, sound and motion. It will develop language skills as the child plays with it, eventually learning to say short words like "mama".

The doll forms facial expressions, moving its mouth, eyes and cheeks so that it can realistically laugh or cry. It will be priced at $100 and available this fall.

For older girls, the company has developed a line of dolls called the "Diva Starz". Each of the four dolls has a different personality and look; a girl can place different clothes or accessories on them by saying such things as, "I like this blue dress."

The dolls can also sense the other dolls and will talk among themselves. Mattel plans to release companion video games and a Web site later this year.

New CD games from Mattel's Purple Moon division also hook into the division's Web site. "Rocket Carnival" is a simulation game that asks girls to build a carnival to raise money for endangered animals, and "Rocket Sleep Over" lets girls play games and interact with other characters at a party. Both games, priced at $19.99, will have special items that can be downloaded from the Purple Moon Web site and traded online with other girls.

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