It looks Japanese, comes from France has a name derived from the Armenian word for rabbit and now an English-speaking version is available in Australia. Not surprisingly this multinationally-derived resident has a few issues.
The bundled instructions are the simplest aspect of Nabaztag to understand: “1) Plug your rabbit into a power outlet, 2) go to www.nabaztag.com/start, 3) Your rabbit is alive!” Step 2 walks you through setting up an ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection with the rabbit in order to change its settings and attach it to your wireless network. It’s quite simple.
Once you’ve got it on the Internet, and you know when you’ve succeeded because of Close Encounters-like light signals, you can register it. But we couldn’t. The main France-based website was constantly down when we tried to register and after a very frustrating twenty attempts our supplier had to register our rabbit for us.
Once up and running we were part of the www.nabaztag.com community. Here you can look up other global rabbit owners and send them messages – the rabbits will either read out your text messages (in several choices of English or French voices) or play 30 seconds of a song. Before and after each announcement the rabbit will play a sound which can vary from a didgeridoo, through ticking to musical notes.
You can also sign up for services as diverse as reading out various RSS feeds, to telling you the weather, telling you a joke or just some random mentalism at a daily time of your choosing. We found subscribing to feeds very hit and miss – many simply never arrived. Some are free, but others require a Nabaztag subscription of US$5 per month (first month is free).
This meant that our rabbit generally sat in our office doing little other than flashing most of the time with just an occasional random ejaculatory announcement being accompanied with some ear twirling and noise.
The ‘Tag’ that proceeds Nabaztag refers to the bellybutton microphone (earlier non ‘Tag’ versions didn’t have one). An RFID allows your rabbit to ‘smell’ and give reports on the air quality. There’s a 3.5mm jack for external speakers (its internal speaker can be too quiet in a bustling environment) and a button on top of the head can be pressed to repeat all messages (laborious if you missed a one word quip and you have to listen to several minutes of old messages). If you press it longer you can (supposedly) give it voice commands, like telling you stock prices, the weather or to connect to an Internet Radio station. However, after dozens of attempts at saying two word phrases fast and slow and in various accents the rabbit did nothing but spout annoying phrases about how it couldn’t understand.
We constantly found ourselves frustrated by the rabbit and most of the Web-based help is still in French only. But there’s something undeniably charming about this bunny and its semaphore-like ear dancing which is the only thing which stopped us punting out of the nearest window in a fit of frustrated pique. Nonetheless, it has become something of a craze among its blogger community who spend a great deal of time decorating the rabbits and using its API to programme 3rd party rabbit-based applications.
If you’re lonely and fancy a joining a Toulose-Loutrec-inspired, quasi-Franco mentalist blogging community and paying $260 for something that doesn’t always work, you’ll love it. Otherwise, erm, you probably won’t.
This Review appeared in the June, 2007 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine