New personal electronic companion gains favor

There is an on-going debate among evolutionary biologists about whether the process of evolution is linear and steady (the technical name is "phyletic gradualism"--a theory stating that most evolution occurs uniformly and by the steady and gradual transformation of whole lineages), or whether evolution is characterized more by what the late Stephen Jay Gould called "punctuated equilibrium": Most species will show little to no evolutionary change throughout their history, and when evolution does occur, it happens sporadically and quickly relative to the species' life on earth. The world of personal electronic companions is decidedly a realm of punctuated equilibrium: Just think of the speaking doll, the Tamagotchi virtual pet, and Sony's AIBO dog. These products, each more capable than its predecessor, burst on the market with great fanfare, and some even claim modest success, but then nothing much happens for a long while, until the next product appears.

Which brings us to French company Violet and its new electronic personal companion names Nabaztag. The Nabaztag is rather ugly--in an appealing sort of way--plastic cone-shaped doll with rabbit TV antennas. The device reads out emails and mobile phone text messages, orders children to go to bed, alerts its owner to stock fluctuations, and offers traffic updates by receiving Internet feeds through a WiFi network. Nabaztag costs about $150 and is is made in Shenzhen, China. Since its launch last year, 50,000 Nabaztags have been sold in France, Britain, Belgium, and Switzerland, and the company hopes to sell 150,000 by the end of this year.

For more about the Nabaztag:
- see Violet's Web site
- and this Sydney Morning Heralds report

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