Mashable photographer Haley Hamblin (right) blows kisses to a Finglerling.
Hello little Fingerlings, where have you been all my life?
I am an unabashed robotics fan. I’m also someone who has been disappointed repeatedly by consumer robotics.
While some overpromise and underdeliver others overdeliver and overwhelm. The best of them, like Sphero’s Ultimate Lightning McQueen are pricey, and the worst of them, like WowWee’s adorable ChiP robot dog, are expensive and confusing.
In truth, consumers can only handle so much when it comes to robotics. They like a little bit of automation and intelligence, a lot of simplicity, and pocket-change prices. For consumer automatons, that’s a near impossible mix.
Yet, that’s what WowWee’s achieved with Fingerlings, its line of colorful robo-monkeys that cost $14.99 apiece. The toy wraps its little plastic arms tightly around your finger (they do not move, you slide the monkey on like a ring) and reacts to touch and movement with an instantly engaging collection of monkey-ish sounds.
Just 5.5-in. tall from the curved tail to its tuft of wispy hair, a Fingerlings toy is a perfect fit for your finger, pocket, or backpack. It has a large head, wide-set, inky black eyes, a tiny nose, and a small, smiling mouth. The head is mounted on a servo, and as soon as you switch the toy on (there’s a small physical switch near the top of its head), it starts blinking its eyes and turning its head. It also says, “Hello!” followed by a playful (or is it mischievous?) little laugh. There’s a large speaker on the back of its head, so you can hear every cute sound and its one word clearly.
For a sub-$20 robot toy, it has an impressive number of sensors. It can respond to a tap on the head or a touch (there are two touch sensors). Blowing in its face elicits a response, as does clapping your hands (you may need to take the monkey off your finger for that), cradling it, or dangling it upside down. All told, there are 40 different animations and reactions, so it can take a little while to discover them all.
The toys will make a kissing sound when you blow in their faces and react with glee when you turn them upside down (the tail is perfect, by the way, for hanging it off a finger or the edge of a desk). Like every WowWee robot toy I’ve tried over the last decade-plus, Fingerlings can fart, too, I’ll let you discover how to make it happen.
You can also cradle it to put the robot to sleep (yes, it snores) and clap in its face to get a reaction.
When I brought my monkey home, my teenage daughter was instantly engaged. She patted and petted it and then asked me how much it costs. $14.99, I told her. “I’m getting a bunch of these,” she responded.
That is, in fact the Fingerlings strategy. They come in six different colors and, in Canada, where they’ve already been on sale for a few months, people have bought multiple Fingerlings. Children want to collect all six, even though the little monkeys cannot interact with each other.
WowWee rates Fingerlings for 4 hours of continuous play before the monkey runs out of battery power. Realistically, though, the batteries could last for days or even weeks, since most children will interact for minutes at a time, and the toy will auto-sleep to conserve energy when you’re not playing with it.
That said, I am a little worried that Fingerlings require four LR44 watch batteries. They’re not expensive (LR44’s can cause as little as $1.65 for eight), but most people don’t have a supply of these lying around, and they are a bit of a pain to replace.
As I see it, though, Fingerlings gets the overall balance in terms of interaction and simplicity, and the price is just right. Even when a monkey is doing nothing, its tiny, open face beckons irresistibly. WowWee’s goal is to have customers fill up six fingers with all the color options and, eventually, add more.
Later this year they’ll be releasing special editions for partners including a Glitter Fingerling, a Unicorn Fingerling and, in the fall, a Sloth model that will move 20% slower than standard Fingerlings.
At $14.99 a pop, it’s a good bet people buy every single one.
Cute Interactive and responsive Fits on a finger or in your pocket Super affordable
Uses watch batteries
WowWee Fingerlings are cure, fun, affordable and, yes, collectible.
Every editorial product is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our journalism.