How do you remember the 90s and early 2000s pet dogs? Whether you were a pet lover or not, you must have interacted with the robotics pets at one point. Does the name Poo-Chi ring a bell in your mind? I know this will instantly ring a bell for Millennials. Generation Z has more sophisticated sony Aibo and the likes.
For us, the millennial, we grew up in the era of Tekno the Robotic Puppy and such kind of robopets. This was not the coolest or smooth transition kind of pets. But they were more authentic. Back then, the AI had not advanced to the level that we are seeing today, but it was enough for our amazement and fun back in the days. I remember begging my parents to buy me one for months on end. At that time, I think the Tekno the Robotic Puppy was retailing at $39.99 which was a lot of money that my parents were not willing to throw on a robot.
Then came Poo-Chi, around the same time. This was an awesome addition to my list of must-have robotic pets. I was already addicted to them and would follow the release and hop and pick one the earliest I could. During that time, we would hold our own internal robot fight competitions with my sibling, and the same would happen at school. Oh...how sweet life was back then. We were not so much interrupted by social media and fancy video games.
Does this popular Poo-Chi commercial ring a bell? Does it tickle your nostalgia tendons and bring back the memories of the early 2000s? If yes, that makes the two of us.
When I look back in early 2000, when these pet robots had just started flooding the market, it makes me realized the stride the entire world has made in terms of artificial intelligence and robotics. It is on this premise that most of the AI and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are based on. Like the case of the robotic vacuum cleaner, its functionality and those of Poo-Chi or Tekno the robotic puppy are almost similar. Only that one is a pet and the other is a workhorse for cleaning the house.
The similarity is real. Both use sensors and could be configured to do certain things when they received certain commands. This is the basis of most robotic home appliances. The development of Poo-Chi in the 2000s signaled a great leap in not only technology but also the world of psychological science. These puppies were not real, but could carry you away, make you emotional, and at the same time entertain you the same way a real dog would.
At first, the Poo-Chis were thought to be toys for kids. But as their features improved, we have seen them being used with adults alike. The Poo-Chi tops the list of pet robots that have been positively received by kids of all ages and adults too. In the development of the latest robotic pets like the Sony Aibo, a lot has been borrowed from the past pet dogs. This makes them even more immortal. The battery life and command comprehension have improved tenfold in the latest pet dogs. Thanks to Poo-Chi and other predecessors.
Why Poo-Chi was so Popular in the early 2000s
The ‘90s through to the 2000s were some of the years that experienced rapid development in the technology world. Silicon Valley worked overtime during this period to release the best technology devices from smartphones, fancy TVs, smart home appliances, smart toys, etc. It is the century that experienced the most in terms of research in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
The Toy industry was not left behind. And the Poo-Chi specifically was one of the many pieces of technology that marked the decade and amazed kids I some of the weirdest manners. At the age when smartphones, tablets, fancy gadgets, PlayStation, Nintendo, etc. were just being released, it was strange to find kids fixated on a robotic pet dog. Surprisingly, many kids preferred the robotic pet as opposed to real pets because they did not come with the nasty baggage of dealing with their poop! This was one of the reasons I personally preferred Poo-chi to a real dog. Additionally, the Poo-chi would still appeal to your emotions and make you smile whenever you were sad. This made the poo-chi popular among teens at the time. It was a nice stress reliever.
Furthermore, the Poo-Chi encouraged physical exercises, especially when following it around. Since he could not stay at one place, following it around the house sufficed for a full day of light exercise. The fun of it combined with the running around the house made the experience even more memorable and satisfying...how I miss those good old days! I know it may look funny for me to pick a poo-chi at this age and play with it, but deep within, it is something I would wish to do for nostalgia purposes.
The thoughts of the fun we had playing with Tekno and Poo-Chis never fades into my mind. We would go over to our friend’s house, power up all our robotic gadgets, and make a noise like we are watching some world wrestling championship match. The good thing about Poo-Chi is that it didn’t get angry, or get pissed with the goofy things that we used to do it.
Background History of the Origin of Poo-Chi
Poo-Chi also referred to as Poochi or Poochie in some countries is a robot dog invented by Samuel James Lloyd and Matt Lucas and manufactured by Sega Toys. From its debut, Poo-Chi was distributed by Tiger Toys. Poo-Chi is regarded as one of the earliest generations of robopet toys. Poo-Chi debuted in the year 2000 and was phased out in 2002, quite a short life but still managed to be one of the most popular robopets at the time.
Sega Toys’ Poo-Chi was introduced to US stores in April 2000 by Hasbro’s Tiger Electronics. The toy was distributed in almost all countries except Japan and Korea, where the toy was distributed directly by Sega Toys. In Japan, it costs 3,980 Japanese yen, which was an equivalent of about US$38 at that tune, In the US, it was selling at about $24.99.
Despite being designed for children rather than adults, like the Sony Aibo, Poo-Chi was substantially less expensive than the AIBO that cost a whooping 250,00, which was an equivalent of $2,400. The price of high-end robopets like the AIBO is very prohibitive prompting many people to go for lower-end robot-like Tekno and Poo-Chi.
Hasbro’s leading Furby line’s sales had been dropping since its first debut in 1998, a time when the sales of Star Wars products ha been declining. The Poo-Chi’s release was a success, with over 10 million units sold globally in the eight months since its initial release.
Poo-Chi’s special editions became popular very fast, like the 102 Dalmatians holiday release of three Poo-Chis matching the characters Domino, Little Dipper, and Oddball. In addition to special editions, an improved version, the Super Poo-Chi, and varieties of the Poo-Chi (all of which could speak with one another) were developed as well as spin-offs like the Meow-Chi and the Chirpy-Chi.
Miniature versions were available as toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals. Unfortunately, Poo-Chi was discontinued in 2002 and was replaced by FurReal Friends.
The Look and Style of Poo-Chi
The original Poo-Chi featured a gray body with purple, blue, pink, or green ears, tail, and leg joints. It used a red LED display as eyes to indicate emotion, and it had four legs that allowed it to stand up or lie down.
Poo-Chi Special Editions.
Back in the day, any diversion from the normal would make a series, Movie, or any concept appear fresh and very entertaining. Poo-Chi was not left behind in this amazement. There were several special editions of Poo-Chi that made it stand out and remain relevant and popular at the time.
Initially, Poo-Chi’s body was gray, with purple, blue, pink, or green ears, tail, and limb joints. With four legs that enabled the toy to stand or lie down, it used a red LED display as eyes to indicate emotion.
Poo-Chi communicated with the help of pre-recorded sounds like barks, whines, and growls. Due to technological restrictions back then, most of the noises were portrayed as beeps rather than true sound effects. Poo-Chi could also bark tunes when you press the button on top of its head.
The Poo-Chi Spin-off
Photo Courtesy: The Old Robots
The Poo-Chi spawned a slew of spin-offs. Except for the Super Poo Chi, a larger version of the original toy, they were all based on different animals.
Then came Meow-Chi. This was a computer-controlled cat. Then there was a Poo-Chi Super, which was a larger version of the original Poo-Chi robopet. Dino-Chi is a robotic dinosaur that comes in two varieties: The Dino-Chi T. Rex and the Dino-Chi Pterodactyl. Chirpy-Chi is a mechanical bird. The Petal-Chi is a mechanical flower or shrub that amazed kids so much back then. Robo-Baby was a cute little robotic baby. There was also Booster who was just a typical robot, nothing fancy!
Do you remember the Poo-Chi songs?
- The Wedding March
- Camptown Races
- I’ve been working on the Railroad / Home on the range
- Beethoven Symphony No.9
- When the saints come marching in.
Who doesn’t remember these songs? I bet they are etched in your mind and subconscious like they are on mine. I can’t get myself to forget the tune of these songs. The Wedding March has since become a very popular tune that is used in many toys and kids’ tech applications. It is a composition of Felix Mendelssohn’s in C major. It was written way back in 1842.
The Wedding March is one of the most well-known pieces from Felix’s suite of incidental music to Shakespeare’s Play A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Op. 61). It is also one of the most popular wedding marches, usually performed on a church pipe organ.
This composition is regularly used as a recessional at weddings most commonly in Western Countries, though it is typically shorn of its episodes in this context. It is commonly combined with the Bridal Chorus from Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin or Jeremiah Clarke’s “Prince of Denmark’s March,” both of which are typically used for the bride’s entrance.
The first documented performance of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” at a wedding occurred when Dorothy Carew married Tom Daniel in 1847 at St. Peter’s Church in Tiverton, England when it was performed by Samuel Reay (The Organist). However, it didn’t become popular at the wedding until Victoria, Princess Royal chose it for her wedding to Prince Frederick William of Prussia in 1858.
The bride was Queen Victoria’s daughter, who adored Mendelssohn’s music and for whom Mendelssohn frequently performed during his visits to Britain. St. Ann’s church in Tottenham houses an organ on which Mendelssohn performed the “Wedding March,” among other pieces.
In 189 – 50, Franz Liszt composed a virtuoso transcription of the “Wedding March and Dance of the Elves” (S.10). Vladimir Horowitz turned the Wedding March into a virtuoso showcase for piano, which he used as an encore during his concert. This piece has since been adopted in many movies, series, and gadgets including the original Poo-Chi robopet.
When Poo-Chi was joyful, he would often sing Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” and if another Poo-Chi or Robo-Chi pet was present (like the Meow-Chi), that other Robo-Chi would start singing Ode to Joy as well, albeit the playback would not be synchronized.
The Poo-Chi’s time may have passed and the latest robopets are completely on another level with the new AI and smart technologies. But either way, I still feel that the original Poo-Chi had an intimate and unique connection with its owner.
It would be great if this robopet got a reboot or a complete remake to improve it and bring it back to its rightful position in the robopet industry.
What are your memories of the Poo-Chi? Did you get a chance to own one back in the 2000s?