Unless artist Jeff Koons, known for his giant balloon dog sculptures, decides to get litigious, Moose Toys will be introducing some competition for Sony’s Aibo later this year with Squeakee, the world’s first robotic balloon dog that could potentially put clowns and birthday party entertainers out of business.
Robotic toys have become a driving force at Toy Fair in recent years, and although there have been some unsettling missteps like Teddy Ruxpin’s return, there have been some huge successes such as Sphero’s BB-8, and Hasbro’s upcoming robotic Baby Yoda.
There’s also no shortage of robotic dogs, with Sony’s pricey, feature-packed Aibo leading the pack, and more affordable robo-pups designed to provide simple companionship without all the responsibilities of pet ownership. Moose Toys’ Squeakee falls somewhere in between those two extremes; it’s not going to roam your house and serve as a four-legged security guard that alerts you to intruders, but for $US60 ($92), when it arrives sometime in October, it packs a satisfying amount of personality and interactivity.
It also packs a handy murder feature.
Squeakee can walk around all on its own, perform standard doggo tricks like sitting, scooting, and responding to belly rubs facilitated by a series of touch sensors. The robot also has a microphone and can respond to voice commands, including affirmations of its good behaviour, or admonishments about misbehaving, and can respond with physical gestures as well as over 50 sounds. (We’ve yet to confirm if it barks like a dog, or makes that that excruciating squeaking sound when rubbing a balloon.)
You can also sadistically stab Squeakee with an included push pin, causing the pup to go through the motions of slowly deflating, which is the balloon dog equivalent of playing dead. It can then be re-inflated using a pretend pump accessory that also facilitates eating because a balloon animal presumably only dines on air—unlike Sony’s Aibo, which makes users actually pay for pretend food.
As far as pets go, Squeakee is easier to maintain than both a real dog (potty time consists of simulated peeing using an LED shining on the ground) and a fake balloon dog because, unless dropped from a second-story window, there’s little chance that Squeakee will suddenly explode if handled too roughly.