Last week I was introduced to Fingerlings. The child who taught me all about Fingerlings has a dragon, but the popular toy also comes as a monkey, sloth, panda, cat, dolphin, and unicorn. Fingerlings are really kind of cool because they react in some forty ways. Rock them and their eyes close. Turn them upside down and they laugh. Pet them and they coo and blink their eyes. Clap your hands and they sing. They will grab onto your finger too which may be how they got their name.
Created by a Canadian family-run business in Montreal just in time for Christmas 2017 the battery-operated creatures have received the Good Housekeeping seal of approval as a safe and creative toy for kids over the age of five. It certainly seemed the source of plenty of imaginative interaction and play for the child I observed with it.
How the Fingerling was developed is interesting. 28-year-old Sydney Wiseman, a brand manager for WowWee, a company run by her uncles, came up with the idea after seeing a popular photo on Facebook of a furry little monkey called a pygmy marmoset hanging on someone’s finger.
An artist spent weeks creating the original drawings for the toy and then engineers spent months designing the workings of the Fingerling which is really a rather sophisticated kind of mini-robot with a motion sensor, software to block out background noise and a microphone.
To keep the price point low, the toys were manufactured in China. WowWee used an interesting method to release Fingerlings to the public in August of 2017. They hired people with popular YouTube channels or large Instagram followings to feature Fingerlings on one of their videos or posts. These went viral and by Christmas, WowWee was hiring planes to get their product to stores on time for holiday shoppers. They have since opened a third factory in China to make the toy.
The Fingerling reminds me of the pet rocks of the 70s, the Cabbage Patch dolls of the 80s, the Beanie Babies of the 90s, and the Zhu Zhu pets of the 2000s. We are approaching the beginning of a new decade. I wonder what the cute, loveable toy of the 2020s will be.