Doesn't everyone need an animatronic monkey bust? Well, okay, it's not a matter of need
, but, you must admit it's cool. Even the phrase is cool. Wowwee Alive Chimpanzee is a programmable, lifelike chimpanzee head and shoulders that will bewilder your family, astound your friends and, most likely, frighten your pets.
| Alive Mode allows you to interact naturally with the chimp through its six sensors |
Monkey Looks Good
It's so lifelike, in fact, that recent guests to my home did a double-take when seeing it on my dining room table. It has latex rubber skin that's colored, wrinkled, and speckled in very realistic way and has big, brown, bloodshot eyes. Its head and shoulders are covered in synthetic monkey fur. Fine gray whiskers jut out from its brow and chin. The only thing detracting from this realistic chimpanzee likeness are two little sensors plugged into its nostrils. More on that later.
Under the fur on its back is a little power switch. When powered up, the Wowwee Alive Chimp looks around the room, shakes his head in a very simian way, and gives up a chimp laugh. It is reminiscent of the automatons at Disneyworld, but with more modest whirs and clacks in place of the pneumatic hiss of the Disneybots.
See No Evil, Hear No Evil
There are three basic ways to interact with the Wowwee Alive Chimpanzee: alive, direct control, and program modes.
Sensors turn the chimp into a virtual pet that displays different moods: curious, happy, fearful, and angry
In alive mode, the chimp reacts to stimulus received through sensors in and about the head. Infrared "vision" sensors in his nose detect movement, which make him track what's going on by moving his head and eyes. Microphone "hearing" sensors in his ears make him react similarly; a snap of your fingers on one side of his head will make him twitch in that direction. His hearing and vision is pretty limited to stimuli just inches away from his face, though, so don't expect him to greet you when you come through the door. There are also "touch" sensors under his chin and on top of his head.
These sensors turn the chimp into a virtual pet that displays different moods. His four programmed moods are curious (his default mood when he's first switched on), happy, fearful, and angry. You can elicit different moods with different actions. Petting the top of his head and/or rubbing under his chin will put him in a happy mood. Waving things in front of his face or making loud noises next to his ear will put him into a fearful or angry mood (for the record, I'm the same way). Unless your a primatologist, you'll likely find the distinction between his happy and angry moods to be subtle. He moves his eyes and face and makes chimp noises. Without arms and hands to fling, uh, food, his mood is not so immediately clear.
| Direct Control Mode allows you to operate the chimp like a puppet |
Remote Control Puppeteering
Direct control mode lets you operate the monkey with the included remote control. Anyone who has played a video game system in the last 10 years will be instantly familiar with the remote's thumbstick design. Toggle buttons on the shoulders of the remote simplify the many different control elements into a simple design. For example, in one toggle position, the left thumbstick moves the jaw, and in the other position, it moves the eye lids. Control mode essentially turns the chimp into a puppet. The remote also has six buttons that, when used with the toggles, can go through preprogrammed animations of his moods.
The Wowwee Chimp can make a wide variety of gestures. His head can nod up and down and turn from side to side. His eyes can move similarly, and his eyelids can close and open. His mouth can close and open, but his lips don't move, which is a little disappointing. I'd be a lot more excited about the programming feature if I could teach him to lip sync to a Britney Spears song.
Program Mode permits the user to store a routine of the chimp's movements and sounds up to 20 steps long. This is easy and fun to do, though you can only store one program at a time. Setting the monkey into Guard mode will make him respond to stimulus by executing the program steps you've put in.
One consideration for the Wowwee Alive Chimpanzee is where in your home does he belong? I suggest on top of the piano. After all, as the Three Stooges taught us, music soothes the savage beast. --Porter B. Hall