October 26, 2006 12:32 PM PDT
Nabaztag: A conflicted Wi-Fi rabbit
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The first thing that happened was that LapinLED began to whir. Its LEDs flashed. Its ears rotated. And it piped up: "Who am I? I don't have a name. Who are you? I don't know you."
I thought I gave it a name already.
So, figuring I needed help, I clicked on the link to the Nabaztag "survival guide." It came up, but it was in French. It took me about half an hour navigating the site's nooks and crannies before I was finally able to find the English version. Not a good start.
In fact, the Nabaztag Web site is not at all easy to use. It's confusing. It contradicts itself. And its instructions are often uninformative.
The site did offer attitude though.
There's this little tidbit, for example, which is displayed on the site: "Listen here. Just because I'm a rabbit (even a smart one), everyone thinks I have no opinions. Well, I have been given this tiny little square to prove you wrong. So, watch out! Because I'm an opinionated rabbit who knows the importance of expressing his True Self. Read my square and know what it is to be a Communicating Rabbit."
But what I really wanted was to get my rabbit up and running and rocking my world.
One of the features of a Nabaztag is that it can receive and speak messages sent via the Web site. So when I was informed that I had a message from a bunny named Theobromine, I went to go see who that was. Unfortunately, I was told that it could find no such Nabaztag.
I was beginning to lose my patience.
Coincidentally, my home computer chose this time, more or less, to have its hard drive blow up. Because the Web site was a requirement for getting it to do anything, I had to give up on playing with the bunny for a week or so until I got the machine back.
Flash forward, and I'm playing with the bunny again. Only this time I'm doing so while talking on the phone to a Violet technician named David at the company's offices in Paris.
David was pretty helpful. He convinced me that it actually was possible to get LapinLED to do what it was supposed to do. He even told me that in his office, halfway around the world, he could see that LapinLED was properly connected to the Internet, and could see that he (how do you know if your plastic bunny is a he?) was working correctly.
He pointed out that my news alerts, scheduled for specific times, weren't going off as planned because the bunny was set to Paris time. I fixed that. Sure enough, it began spitting out the latest New York Times headlines. Weather came next, though I'm pretty sure it told me thunderstorms were expected on what was one of the most beautiful days of the year.
He even proved that we could "marry" our bunnies so that when I rotated LapinLED's ears, the ears on his bunny, Cocktail, would rotate the same way. And vice versa.
After being on the phone with David for about half an hour, I had LapinLED doing just about everything he was supposed to do.
The trouble is, I wasn't as impressed as I expected to be. Traffic alerts are fine. Spoken messages from fellow bunny owners are fun. Even watching LapinLED do "tai chi" at random times was kind of neat. And I loved the combinations of blue, red, orange, purple and green LEDs flashing at me all the time.
But ultimately, that's all there is. This is a $150 toy. It flashes. It speaks. But it's a novelty. And despite my initial excitement, I find myself a little underwhelmed.
But I know many people love their bunnies. So please feel free to send a message to LapinLED saying hello.
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