Toy Hackers

Gregory Alan Bolcer (
Wed, 23 Dec 1998 09:01:43 -0800

So someone finally wrote up the reasons for my fascination with
a stupid little talking toy. You will remember that I held
a similar fascination with interactive purple dinosaurs,
although I'd never buy one. Mike Pazzani, the chair of our department
who also does work in learning systems, mathematical models of
causality and dependency (like the ones used in Google), has
two of the little Furby things. Kris had ordered one for me well
before my graduation party back when they were about $30,
but it seems the company that sells them hijacked the order
in the face of the following week's overwhelming demand
and ability to sell them upwards of $500. The following
sites give an assessment of how to perform a Furby
autopsy [1], possible means for hacking the chips and
software [2], and just a general discussion of the mania [3].

A couple of neat things you can do? You can set up your
universal remote to interact with it across the room. It'd
be interesting to see if you could capture the IR output from
the toy, put them on your laptop and then use your IR port
to possibly send out random or planned interactions. This
brings up another point, I wonder if the software by itself
without the physical stuff would sell as an add-on.

The core of the thing is an 8bit 1mhz 6502, about the same
power and instruction set as the Atari 2600 and, incidentally,
about the same speed as an Apple II. It seems possible to
burn a new ROM for it. Anyone have access to any ASICS design