I’ve never been much of a gadget blogger. My entries on The Verge’s Circuit Breaker have been met with sentiments ranging from “is this a joke?” to “I have difficulties getting your writing style” to “this is why I swiped left on you on Tinder,” which was deleted by the moderators.
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t loved any gadgets in my time. For example, I love the PneuHound, a tiny robot dog built in the Hosoda Laboratory at Osaka University in 2016. I love my co-worker Lizzie Plaugic’s description of him, which was: “It runs frantically, but without moving very much at all. It shivers constantly. It slams its little dumb body into walls.”
I also love SynDaver Labs’ anatomically correct synthetic dog, built the same year, which Lizzie described as: “His body looks like uncooked bacon.” In fact, thinking about all the gadgets I have loved, none of them are my iPhone (which regularly tells me that the weather will be poor or that bad people are in charge of even the dumb stuff) or my TV (which only gets five channels and one of them is called “Movies!” and exclusively plays movies from 1987) or my laptop (which is covered in dirt and jam and reflects poorly on my personal hygiene). Nope! They’re all robot dogs.
Here are the four I have loved the most.
Tekno Robot Dog Silver Interactive Toy Puppy by Quest
I owned this robot dog as a child, and I totally forgot about how delightful (and terrifying!) it is, until I encountered one in Why’d You Push That Button producer Andrew Marino’s home in Brooklyn this winter. I played with it for so long, almost right up to the point of the party when Andrew said, “It’s my birthday. I just wanted everyone to have the experience of not knowing they’re at a birthday party.”
Poo-Chi by Sega Toys
Also, I had this robot dog as a child. Why were my parents buying me new robot dogs at a much sharper pace than the one at which I currently upgrade my cellphone or go to the dentist? Unclear! I’ll call them later and ask, but it’s none of your business. I had the one with blue ears and my sister had the Dalmation one.
iDog by Sega Toys
Possibly the greatest gadget of my lifetime, the iDog was a dancing speaker that was meant to be plugged into an iPod, but realistically you could plug it into anything. It was supposed to react, emotionally, to the music you played through it. I plugged my iDog into a SanDisk MP3 player with probably 30 songs on it, including the entirety of The Dixie Chicks album Fly, a selection of Dan Fogelberg’s greatest hits, and Paper Lace’s “The Night Chicago Died.” My little guy had no idea what to do with himself!
There’s a real song called “Me, My Music, and My iDog,” and the chorus goes “All I need is me, my music, and my iDog / Don’t care ‘bout anything else / All I need is me, my music, and my iDog / Don’t care ‘bout anything else.”
The next decade was rough for me.
Joy for All Companion Pet Golden Pup by Hasbro
In October 2016, Lizzie was mailed a Joy for All Companion Pet manufactured by Hasbro — for no reason at all that was clear to us. The yellow lab puppy is primarily recommended for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients who are unable to take care of a living dog but deserve and want a small pet friend anyway.
Lizzie named this one Ricky, and he sat on her desk until we moved out of Vox’s Bryant Park offices in January 2017. He rode downtown in a black plastic box and was lovingly (or roughly) delivered (who knows!) to our new offices in the Financial District. He sat by us through thick and thin, nodding and affixing a Vox Union pin to his neckerchief, comforting us with a simulated heartbeat that roughly matched our own, barking lightly, when we allowed him to.
According to the Amazon reviews for Ricky, “His cute responses to voice and movement, the heartbeat when patted, [and] the heavy breathing / light snoring as he goes off to sleep make it impossible not to smile.” I agree.
Those are the robot dogs I have loved the most.