RAM-based rug rats

RAM-based rug rats

The Learning Company's Mindscape Entertainment division last week announced it will start selling the "world's first virtual baby" in Q3 for $US29.99 -- which is a steal, given the high cost of adoption these days.

Babyz is a PC software program that puts a virtual toddler on your desktop computer screen. But these are no ordinary computerised infants. Using voice recognition technology, you can teach a Babyz "child" to recognise its name and the names of household objects. (Mindscape will include a computer microphone in each Babyz package.) You can even teach these RAM-dwelling rug rats the difference between right and wrong and scold them when they misbehave. You can't actually spank your bad digital baby, of course, but in worst-case scenarios, you could threaten it with the Windows recycling bin.

Each Babyz baby will have a unique look and personality, the company says, and will actually show noticeable growth. Children will become bigger, grow hair, sprout teeth, learn to walk, play music, build with blocks, and play with toys. "How well they develop," says a company press release, "will depend on how well they are taught."

Mindscape's Babyz product is designed to complement its other "virtual life entertainment" products such as Dogz and Catz, which the company claims have sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. You'll be able to "adopt" up to two additional Babyz at Mindscape's online adoption centre. The kids can play with each other in the Virtual Play House, which consists of seven areas, including a backyard, family room, nursery -- and the inevitable changing room.

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