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Valentine's Day 2007 Buyer's Guide

Nabaztag Wi-Fi Bunny

At first glance, you might be tempted to write off the Nabaztag as just another cute animal toy, but that would be a mistake. Though it is indeed designed to be cute, this bunny offers more than just a pretty face to its owner. Beneath its cute and innocuous exterior, the Nabaztag supports 802.11 b or 802.11g. Using its wireless link, it can read your e-mail, vocalize messages, tell time, and report weather, stocks or news from Internet feeds. It can send and receive e-mails and SMS messages as well. Shoot, the Nabaztag can even play back your favorite music files on command!

This cute little bunny waggles his ears, blinks colored lights, and can even talk to you or play music.

What kicks this bunny up and over most smart toys is an abundance of personality, and a very interesting bag of tricks. This bunny can even "get married" to another Nabaztag, so that its moves, moods, color scheme, and behavior mirrors that of its partner. It can also be instructed to make random remarks and exhibit other random behaviors as well. Its wiggling ears and blinking lights are pretty charming by themselves, but when you see them work in tandem with a partner bunny, it's too cute for words.

Though the Nabaztag is a fun device, it comes with a pretty serious price tag. Expect to pay somewhere between $150 and $180 for your very own critter, plus $5 a month for added services above and beyond what's bundled in the cost of this wacky wascal of an information appliance. Free services include a Talking Clock (time is announced vocally on the hour), Tai Chi poses (various specific ear attitudes), basic news feeds, an alarm clock, a weather forecast, stock ticker and e-mail alerts.

One of the coolest features is called a Nabcast, with the bunny suddenly chiming in with random feeds, poetry, sound effects, or music that draw well outside the free service range. For $5 a month, the bunny will read your favorite RSS feeds, manage a stock portfolio, deliver Google Talk and personalized e-mail alerts, and let you customize your MP3 alarm clock with different tunes for various wakeup times. For an addition $30, you can order the Nabaztag-Tag which includes a built-in microphone that lets you operate the bunny by voice control.

This cute little bunny's voice synthesizer could probably benefit from some additional work: spoken text sounds a little monotonous and flat, but in a way this adds to the bunny's kooky charm. If your significant other goes for cute stuff, the Nabaztag could be a big hit, but if cuteness isn't on a par with other desirable characteristics, you might want to give this one a pass. The incurably curious will want to know that this device is French in origin - perhaps this is the reason why the Nabaztag offers reports on the state of Paris traffic!