In 2005, Sega Toys released an invention so pure, so beautiful and so completely wholesome that the world fell in love with it almost immediately. The iDog, designed to attach to any music player, existed only for the sole purpose of bopping and dancing to your music, making every jam session a little bit brighter. It's been 10 years since the iDog was on store shelves, but it's time for that to change. As the decade draws to a close, we need more wholesomeness. It's time for the iDog to return.
The iDog was, by and large, pretty simple. You plugged it into a music source, and it lit up, moved its head and wiggled its ears in time to the music. It might seem a bit naff to the current generation of children, who've grown up surrounded by smart, integrated toys and accessories, but in 2005, everyone was going nuts over one tiny, electronic dog.
To give you an idea about how big the iDog really was, in 2007, two new variants of the iDog were produced — the 'SpiDogs'. These variants were created in promotion of Spider-Man 3, a movie described as the summer blockbuster lynchpin of 2007. Sure, it turned out to be a bloated mess, but the budget and hype for the film was enormous, and the iDog was front and centre in its marketing.
The iDog even had its own line of McDonald's toys, and several spin-offs like the smaller iDog Clip, the iCat, the iCy (a penguin), the iTurtle and the... iFish.
The iDog was just one of many gadgets brought out in the mid-2000s amidst the cheap electronics boom. As goods from China became cheaper and more accessible, consumer electronics, particularly those aimed at children, became more popular in Australia. From Tamagotchi to Digimon, simple electronics were setting kids across the world stark raving mad. The iDog was new, different and exciting. It was joy incarnate. All it wanted to do was dance.
When I was a kid, that was enough for me. I shared an iDog with my sister, and I remember listening to tinny music through that tiny, sweet baby for hours on end. Sure, the speakers were awful, but you could boop its nose, tug on its tail and play with its earflaps, and it would make cute little noises back. For a kid who always wanted a puppy, it was the perfect gift. It was cute, responsive and fun.
One of the major complaints about the iDog when it first released was the quality of its speakers, but modern, cheap electronics are of a much higher quality and sound. Robust portable speakers like the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom, priced in the $100 range, boast impressive sound at an affordable cost. More than that, robotic dog companions are making a comeback, with Sony's interactive AIBO dog returning to Japan last year.
Like Frankenstein's monster before it, the iDog can be built better, greater and even more powerful than before. It's time to resurrect the iDog.
Alongside the rising popularity of portable bluetooth speakers, smart lights have also become very trendy over the last few years. The iDog would fit right in, re-imagined as a smart lighting-enabled companion. With a touch of a button, the iDog could come to life, brightening up any corner of your house or apartment with its bop-happy ways. With a more robust speaker, it could add a spark of life to any corner of your house.
As we develop new smart technologies to make our lives easier, the iDog could make a perfect comeback as an integrated smart-light-slash-speaker. The SONOS/IKEA Symfonisk would have nothing on this good boy.
The iDog was a toy ahead of its time, marred only by cheap, throwaway technology, and the declining popularity of electronic toys as a source of entertainment for kids. Now, that same technology is far more affordable, and of a better quality.
Bandai Namco's recent re-release of the original Tamagotchi and Digimon devices inspired a new 'wave of nostalgia' as a generation of young adults rediscovered the toys that guided their childhood. The iDog has that same nostalgic appeal, and could reappear with the same success. It's a toy that deserves more attention, and one worthy of a second chance in the spotlight.
The iDog is a bit silly, yes. It's a little electronic dog that dances. But who wouldn't want to see this carefree little bundle of joy return? The world would be much purer for it, and we could all do with a bit more fun in our lives.
Three cheers for the humble iDog, long may it reign.