I thought I was off the hook.
When I told my kids the new Furby was done staying at our house, they seemed to understand. “We’ll miss you a lot, Furby!!” my six-year-old exclaimed — but there were no cries, no tantrums. They asked if Furby could play one more song. They gave it a goodbye hug. Then, I happily stuck the talking puffball deep in the garage.
But a day later, my three-year-old made an uncharacteristic offhand remark: “I wish we had enough money to buy a Furby…” she said, her full-force puppy dog eyes burning into my soul.
Here’s the good news: I can confirm 2023’s Furby is no currently longer plotting to take over the world.
But that’s only because Furby wants the Moon first.
In all seriousness, the 2023 Furby isn’t as creepy or annoying as its predecessors. It’s more doll than robot now, and I’ve seen zero signs that it learns. Honestly, it’s about as low-tech as a Furby has ever been — there’s no Wi-Fi connectivity, no internet-of-things functionality, no companion app, and no eerie LCD screens for eyes. This Furby explicitly says that it can’t tell time, another thing yesteryear’s plush robot could happily do.
My kids play with the new Furby. Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge
Instead, your $70 buys a fluffy, English-speaking chatterbox that reacts to nearby noises, belly rubs, and head pats while automatically spitting out a string of 600 phrases like “Is hot dog sandwich? Mmmm?” or “Furby feel like 14 out of 10 right now” or “It’s tap dance o’clock!”
And though Hasbro does claim the new Furby responds to speech, it’s not always listening for a wake word like Alexa or Google. Furby will say random things when it detects sound, but getting anything more is rote: you have to 1) press the heart button, 2) say “Hey Furby,” 3) say one of the only five ultra-specific commands it seems to recognize, and 4) tap it on the head or belly until you get the desired result.
The 2023 Furby’s five modes.
This wasn’t always a plus for my six-year-old: “Sometimes the heart button doesn’t work — it’s not listening!” she’d complain. But soon, she was teaching me how to use the toy. “You have to say it INTO the heart gem, Daddy!”
Here’s her review of the 2023 Furby:
I love everything about Furby.
He can change color by you shaking it!
Look, his feet are always ready for dancing because they move up and down. And look he sleeps when you put him on his back! He’s going to sleep very soon.
He loves scratches behind the ears.
He sometimes closes his eyes halfway and he doesn’t like squirrels. When he sleeps he sometimes says “Not the squirrels, not the squirrels.”
He tells you dreams after he sleeps.
Oh and his ears glow too.
“Furby’s just like a real pet except not actually alive,” she concludes.
Six-year-old Verge reviewer. Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge
I might point out that it also doesn’t poop — but there’s no escaping the unprompted fart sounds that make my three-year-old giggle.
There is a little bit of interactivity beyond Furby’s random spoken phrases if you know where to look. In addition to the voice changer, breathing exercises, and inane fortunes, Furby will get “hungry,” and you can “feed” it by pressing anything into its mouth. (My youngest tried feeding Furby her fingertip and was pleased to find it worked.)
If you make a very loud sound, it’ll momentarily pretend to be scared. It can also tell the difference between a pat on the head and combing its hair — but, weirdly, no sensors to detect falls or when you’re fulfilling its request for a scratch behind the ears.
There’s also a surprising number of phrases when you tickle its belly. It took several minutes of nonstop belly rubs before I saw an obvious repetition, and even I chuckled at “Can’t run from tickles… no legs, no fair!”
My kids have wildly different ideas of what constitutes a Furby habitat. Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge
But both came to the same conclusion that Furby needed sleep. Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge
But what kept my kids coming back was the music — making Furby play his “Pizza Rap” and “President of the Moon” and other “Dance Party” songs. One favorite was a Freeze Dance game where you’ve gotta stop dancing when Furby pauses the music and says freeze — it’s also something my kids play in school.
During a week with the Furby, their interest waxed and waned. The youngest originally passed up one of her favorite family games (Jenga) to spend more time with the toy, but they didn’t pout the one day my wife disappeared the Furby up to a high shelf.
“Kids happy. Adults terrified.” — my wife
Speaking of my wife, she couldn’t wait to get it out of the house — mostly, it reminds her of the 1984 movie Gremlins. “Kids happy. Adults terrified,” she says.
Fellow parents, I’m pleased to say that the new Furby is pretty easy to shut off with three quick taps of the power button or by placing it on its back for a tad or even by letting it sit idle for a minute and a half. There’s no dedicated power switch, and removing its batteries requires two Phillips-head screws, but the family didn’t have too much trouble getting it to stop.
Admittedly, I did not test what happens when its four AA batteries run low… perhaps that’s when Furby’s evil side finally does emerge.