July 2, 2023
As fervently as scientists have tried to crack nuclear fusion, toymakers have tried to create the ultimate pet substitute for kids. By the turn of the 21st century, the new wave of ‘robotpet’ toys offered kids a companion they could talk to and play with, without all the messy responsibilities that came with a real pet. Poo-Chi the robot dog is perhaps the most fondly remembered robotpet from this era. Join us as we look back at the Poo-Chi dog in all its robotic, pawsome glory.
So, what year did Poo-Chi come out?
Poo-Chi first came out in April 2000. Since this is only four months into the new millennium, a lot of people misremember Poo-Chi as a 90s robot dog toy. As big fans of the decade, we wish we could say this little guy was an authentic robot dog from the 90s!
However, the Poo-Chi puppy did compete with a real 90s robot dog – AIBO. Created by Sony in 1998, AIBO was more advanced but much more expensive. At the time, a brand-new AIBO cost $2400, while a Poo-Chi puppy was selling for only $38.
As far as robopet toys went, AIBO was the superior being. Still, Poo-Chi was beloved by far more kids, which is a real victory for any toy (or dog, for that matter).
Who made Poo-Chi?
Poo-Chi was designed by Samuel James Lloyd and Matt Lucas and distributed by Tiger Toys (Tiger Electronics), which is why he is also known as the Tiger Electronic dog. The toy was actually manufactured by Sega Toys, which also handled distribution in Korea and Japan.
Little is known of what inspired the creation of the toy, but we do know it was a massive success. Poo-Chi sold 10 million units in the first eight months of its release – not bad for the little pup!
How does Poo-Chi work?
Like his organic cousins, Poo-Chi thrives on being played with, and you could tell if he was happy or sad by looking at the LED display used for his eyes. With a mixture of light, sound, and touch sensors, Poo-Chi would respond to how you played with him but was always a little unpredictable (which we think adds to the realism).
One advantage Poo-Chi had over real dogs is that he could sing songs out of the box! There were six royalty-free songs Poo-Chi could sing, including Camptown Races, Wedding March, and even Beethoven No 9!
But it wasn’t all fun and games. Like a Tamagotchi, Poo-Chi needed to be cared for! Feeding him was simulated by holding his special bone in front of his mouth, which would cause him to wag his tail and emit a chewing sound. Also, if you didn’t interact with him for several minutes, he would start snoring and eventually fall into a deep sleep.
Poo-Chi operated on a ‘biorhythm’ with eight levels from sad to super happy. As you interact with him, he will move up to the next level. At level eight, he would sing special songs you couldn’t get if you neglected him. Moving up these eight levels of interaction is basically how you ‘win’ at the toy, but for most owners, it was about the journey and not the destination.
Super Poo-Chi and other pawsome spin-offs
Mere months after its release, it was clear that Poo-Chi was the ulti-mutt electronic dog toy of the 2000s, and several new versions were created.
The Super Poo-Chi was advertised as the bigger and better upgrade to the original toy. Other than being much larger, Super Poo-Chi could be trained with voice commands like “sit” and “lie down.” Like the loyal pup he is, he would only respond to his owner’s commands. Depending on how happy he was, he could also interact with another Super or original Poo-Chi.
Eventually, Sega Toys also started to manufacture other electronic pets, including Meow-Chi (a cat), Chirpy-Chi (a bird), and Dino-Chi (you guessed it, a dinosaur). Miniature versions of these electronic pets, including Poo-Chi himself, also joined the ranks of classic Happy Meal toys in 2001.
For a limited time, there was also a Christmas Special Edition Poo-Chi. Leading the pack in festive robot dogs, he had a signature red and white snowflake design and special Christmas songs included with his original lineup. Since he was only available for a few months, this special edition Poo-Chi has become a collector’s item.
There was also a tie-in with the 102 Dalmatians with three new white and black spotted Poo-Chis (Domino, Little Dipper, and Oddball). Due to their limited availability, these pups have also become coveted collector’s items.
What happened to Poo-Chi?
Sadly, man’s best robotic friend was discontinued in 2002 to make way for Hasbro’s new line of robopets called ‘FurReal Friends,’ with the main difference being that they were covered in fur, and have more gimmicks, like the ability to speak or poop.
While the FurReal friends are still popular today, they just don’t have the same charm as Poo-Chi.
The legacy of Poo-Chi lives on!
While the Poo-Chi toy is no longer being made, he definitely showed that there’s a market for affordable robotic dog toys for kids. Thanks to advances in technology, there’s a wide range of robot dog toys out there with way more functionality than Poo-Chi had, many with the ability for kids to program them to perform certain actions. Some of the cheaper options even closely mimic Poo-Chi and come with a bone, sing songs, etc.
Like any vintage toy, the cost of a Poo-Chi today depends on whether it’s still sealed in its original packaging and, if it’s not, what condition it is in. On eBay, a sealed Poo-Chi can sell for between $50 to $100 or more, depending on its rarity.