Furby/Alexa hybrid makes the creepy toy at least a little bit useful

Why confine all the personality of your favorite smart home assistant into a cylindrical hub when she can live inside just about any microphone-enabled object you want? Such is the question Amazon Alexa users have been raising for years, and often, to pretty delightful results. Back in 2016, for example, we got to hear Alexa’s voice emanating from the Big Mouth Billy Bass, and now that it’s 2018, we’ll get to hear her coming out of a Furby.

The brainchild of a rather creative engineer, the result of the Furby and Alexa mashup is aptly named “Furlexa.” If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a Furby, allow us to explain. This robotic toy first made its debut in 1998, and looks something like an owl but also a bit like a hamster. It’s a little bit creepy, but so are most toys that meet with incredible success (seriously, I can’t be the only person a bit alarmed by the Tickle Me Elmo). In any case, over 40 million Furbies were sold in the first three years of production, and now, at least one of those Furbies is being repurposed.

“I thought I’d make Furby a little less annoying and give him an upgrade with a real brain. Step aside, Tin Man,” explained Florida-based web developer Zach on his Howchoo page. “I give you: Furlexa,” he announced.

Making Furlexa was rather straightforward — in essence, Zach placed the open source Alexa software onto a Raspberry Pi Zero, and then added a few additional electrical gadgets and gizmos in order to splice the Raspberry Pi into the toy. But why did he choose the Furby?

“Furby is comprised of a few primary components — a microprocessor covered in black resin (to protect Tiger Electronics’ intellectual property), infrared and light sensors, microphone, speaker, and — most impressively — a single motor that uses an elaborate system of gears and cams to drive Furby’s ears, eyes, mouth and rocker,” Zach explained. “By driving the motor at varying speeds and directions and by tracking the cam position, the microprocessor can tell Furby to dance, sing, sleep, or whatever. Pretty cool.” And the only thing to make it cooler would obviously be an Alexa integration.

The entire enterprise cost somewhere in the $50 range, but if you value your time, you may not want to attempt to create Furlexa yourself. Zach said that the whole process took him a year, so unless you’ve some serious time to kill, you may want to just stick with Alexa living in your Echo.

Product Review

Spacious and intuitive, Samsung's Family Hub makes the case for the smart fridge

Samsung's 28-cubic-feet Family Hub fridge aims to not only keep your food cool, but also be the brains of your home via a large computer screen on the outside panel door. Just how smart is it?

Broadway actor tells Kanye West to get off his phone during opening night

Theater actors can get understandably upset when they spot someone in the audience fiddling with their phone instead of watching the show. The other night that audience member was Kanye West, and he got called out for it.
Smart Home

Which is better, the Amazon Echo or the Google Home? We took a look at both

What happens when you compare the Google Home vs the Amazon Echo? Both smart speakers have good qualities, but what happens when you compare they're features side-by-side? We think one of these smart gadgets wins over the other.
Smart Home

Amazon’s Fire TV Cube gets intercom-style Alexa Announcements feature

Owners of the Amazon Fire TV Cube can now use the media streaming service with Amazon's one-way intercom feature called Alexa Announcements to broadcast messages to other Alexa devices in their home.

Keep an eye on things with the Alexa-enabled Ring video doorbell, now only $93

Smart home devices like the Ring video doorbell make it easier to keep an eye on your castle right from your smartphone – no matter where you are. If you want to smarten up your home security, here's how you can grab a Ring doorbell on…
Product Review

The Nuimo Click’s self-powering control convenience is cool but costly

Smart home devices might be clever, but needing your phone to use them is not. Senic’s Nuimo Click is the set of physical buttons that your smart devices are missing. But these smart, self-powered buttons aren’t cheap.
Smart Home

The C By GE Smart LED Bulbs Work Seamlessly With Google Home

The Smart Light Starter Kit contains a smart lightbulb and a Google Home Mini. For those seeking to try out smart lights in their home, it's a great option and is currently on sale for just $35 through Google.
Smart Home

Amazon starts crowdsourcing Alexa’s answers. What could go wrong?

Amazon announced a new resource for its Alexa voice assistant. Alexa Answers is an invitation-only program to which select Amazon customers will be invited to supply brief answers to questions that Alexa was asked but couldn't answer.
Smart Home

ConnectSense’s next plug iteration makes a home smart without a hub

The newest smart outlet in the ConnectSense line of smart home products not only provides a dual plug but can also operate independently of a smart home home, allowing users to control devices directly through an app.
Product Review

Putting on the grits with the Instant Pot pressure cooker

If you want to dip your toe into the low-temperature waters of sous vide, the Anova precision cooker is a good way to start. It has a robust app and an easy-to-use interface that just may convert you to a whole new way of cooking.
Smart Home

Instant Pots! Get your Instant Pot! 5 models are on sale now at Amazon

Consumers win big when Amazon pops deals on popular products like Instant Pots. Five Instant Pot models on sale range from $30 to $60 off. If you've been waiting to buy an Instant Pot for a holiday gift, this could be the time.
Smart Home

The best washing machines make laundry day a little less of a chore

It takes a special kind of person to love doing laundry, but the right machine can help make this chore a little easier. Check out our picks for the best washing machines on the market right now.

Best deals on home security cameras to save you from package thieves

Home security camera systems can help keep your home and your family safe. Amazon's deals on Blink security cameras and Ring Video Doorbells also help you save money on devices you can access regardless of your current location.
Smart Home

Google Store sale is on now through December 24!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018 may be history, but fans of Google hardware including the popular Google Home Hub, Pixel 3 and 3XL mobile phones still have lots of deals in store -- the Google Store, that is.