We’ll look back on this old Barney: an early input-output gizmo you could hug

Dolls have talked for years, but it was Microsoft’s ActiMates Interactive Barney that became a full-fledged peripheral for the computer–with hints of the nifty and bizarre stuff that will flood the world when digital broadcasting begins. Next month, at Toy Fair ’98 in New York City, the company is expected to announce the addition of an Arthur doll to the ActiMates line, and Children’s Television Workshop will introduce a similar smart doll of its own. And if the technology inside these little wriggling, sensing and talking input-output dolls develops as rapidly as other digital devices do, in a few years we’ll see smarter descendants become tools and toys for older kids and adults as well. For kids in the 2-3 range, and for Microsoft, Barney was enough of a phenomenon for now. Though Sesame Street’s much cheaper “Sing & Snore Ernie” easily outsold it, hundreds of thousands of Barneys galumphed out of the stores.