Business / Tech

Robotic penguin hatches from Umarete Woomo interactive egg toy

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

An interactive toy that promoters hope will take the world by storm revealed its secret on Thursday after months of speculation.

The egg-shaped product, named Umarete Woomo in Japan and Hatchimals in English, is developed by Canada-based Spin Master and hits the market Friday. It made its public appearance earlier this year but not until now has one “hatched.”

Tomy Co., which sells the product in Japan, showed the magical moment during a preview in Tokyo.

What emerged was a fluffy penguin-like toy robot with a hard beak, which it used to crack the egg from inside.

H.G. Meij, president of Tokyo-based toymaker Tomy, said although he has produced a lot of different toys in his time, the uniqueness of this one stands out.

“It’s really unique because (users) don’t know what will come out of the egg and how to play with it, but it has made them excited,” he said. “And it’s not just in Japan; this is a global product.”

The company says the toy takes a novel, engaging approach because it needs nurturing from its owner. Japan pioneered the genre with the Tamagotchi in the 1990s.

The ¥8,800 Umarete Woomo is an egg that stands more than 10 cm high. It is made of plastic, with a texture that resembles that of a real egg.

The chick can be heard cheeping inside. To make it hatch, the owner must touch the egg repeatedly. The bird then knocks back, gradually cracking the shell with its beak.

Tomy says the chick starts cracking the egg after about 20 minutes if it is repeatedly touched. But if the person walks away and ignores it, the egg won’t hatch at all.

Meanwhile, the hatched animal itself is like a miniature robot that responds to touch, chatter and movement. It repeats phrases, plays simple games and makes its eyes glow in different colors to match its emotions.

The toy cannot be connected to the internet or smartphones, unlike many other recent toys.