Why the furby?
The furby is the perfect platform to deconstruct electromechanical systems, compare them to their biological counterparts, and delve a bit into the psychology of why we like cute things.
The furby was designed as a tomagatchi you could pet, i.e., the tactile nature of the furby is just as important as the moving gears and software personality. It has big eyes and ears relative to the body, large head, a rounded shape, soft fur, and small mouth with a tongue. The furby is also safe. Nothing on a furby can harm you. These are all features seen in babies and young juveniles in both domestic and wild populations. They signal that the animal is helpless and needs protection. In fact, the more furbies you buy, the more you can protect, right? The furby is economics + robotics + social change + evolutionary theory.
Sensors on the furby: light sensor, IR sensor, three touch sensors, sound sensor, and a tilt/upside down sensor.
Motors on the furby: only one! Driven by a gearing system.
"Brains" in the furby: Two! A main microprocessor and a separate "speech center".
Be warned! This tutorial is not for the faint of heart. I take a true dissection approach to this tutorial.
Materials: Furby, dissection scissiors, regular scissiors, hemostatic forceps, small phillips head screwdriver.
1. First get yourself a 1998-2000 Furby. This was the first production generation by Tiger Electronics. Later editions are built differently and can do things like connect to apps via bluetooth. My furby is a 1999 Baby Furby. I paid $10 at a local vintage shop.
2. For the love of all that is holy take out the batteries!!! Then, keep the base open and take out two side screws and three inner screws (basically, all the screws you can see).
3. Look right at the lip of the base and find the white fabric that connects the fur to the base. Don't try to cut the fur or pry the furby open from the base! It looks like the owner before me tried to do this. Sad. The fur can be completely saved.
4. Under the tail and near the reset button there will be a small opening where the zip tie was placed during manufacturing.
You can cut the zip tie at the opening and take it out.
5. Now it's time to detach the ears from their underlying cartilage (plastic). The ears only move at the dorsal (top) part, closest to the head. Fold back the fabric here and cut the fibers connecting the cartilage and fur. The dissecting scissors worked fine for this.
6. Work your fingers up between the fur and the black plastic plate. Release any connective tissue (i.e. glue) you find by pulling the fur and plastic plate carefully apart with your hands. You can use a blunt dissector if you wish, but this is not necessary. Just bunch the fur as you go, as if you were taking off a shirt. Have patience and be careful.
7. When you get to the white face plate, you will have to unscrew the plate on both sides before you continue (edit: this only applies to the juvenile. The adult's face plate is not screwed on). On the right side you will see the microphone, where the furby listens for your voice/noise (not true voice recognition). The speaker is on the belly.
8. I found that the ventral (bottom) portion of the ears was the most well-connected (glued). I used the hemostatic forceps to pull the fur away from the black plastic. The fur will come completely off!
Almost there... Here you can see the speaker (under the red plastic) and stomach push sensor (between the red and white plastic). The green resistor is connected to the motor.
9. Once you have the fur off, you still need to take off the outer shell. Turns out that furbies are bit like turtles. Find the two screws holding the black plastic together. They are on furby's right side. One is just posterior (behind) to the right ear and the second one is right where the tail was.
10. Pull off the shell and reveal furby's true form! Between the eyes you will see furby's light emitting diode (LED), infrared (IR) sensor, and IR emitter. The IR sensor and emitter are what allowed the furbys to "talk" to one another.
Here, you can see the gearing system that runs all of furby's movements from one motor. Motors are expensive and take a lot of electricity, so it is a brilliant move use only one power source for all the various movements. Next tutorial, we will deconstruct furby further and examine the various components.
Part 2 coming soon. In the meantime...
Now that you have removed the fur, you can give it a wash in the washing machine. I put mine in a load of running clothes with cool water and normal laundry detergent. I also put it in the dryer with my clothes. The sewing did not unravel and all of the discoloration was gone. Nothing melted or warped. Beautiful!