Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Headquarters||Hong Kong, China|
WowWee Group Limited, is a privately owned, Hong Kong-based company that focuses on "breakthrough consumer technologies". They are best known for their biomorphic robot RoboSapien and their interactive balancing robot MiP.
WowWee is a leading designer, developer, marketer and distributor of innovative, hi-tech consumer robotic and consumer entertainment products. The introduction of WowWee’s Robosapien™ robot in 2004, revolutionized the way people interact with robotic companions. One of the most popular entertainment robots in the world with global sales of more than six million units, the Robosapien robot was the first commercially available biomorphic robot. The Robosapien humanoid product line evolved to include Robosapien V2 robot, which added functionality like speech capability, and RS Media™ robot, which featured a complete multimedia experience that allowed users to create and edit functions.
MiP, released in 2014, continues to be one of the world’s most popular consumer robots and the winner of more than 10 major Tech and Toy awards including the Toy Industry Associations’ 2015 TOTY award for Innovative Toy of the Year.
With offices in Montreal, San Diego, Hong Kong, WowWee’s focus on the development of breakthrough consumer technologies continues to forge new categories in personal robotics and entertainment with its imaginative, innovative, award-winning gadgets and toys.
Initially from Canada, the two founding brothers (Richard and Peter Yanofsky) moved to Hong Kong to form the company in 1982, as an independent research & development and manufacturing outfit. As an OEM seller, they produced products such as the Power Rangers Power Gloves and the Talking Tots dolls. In 1987, the company changed focus, building and marketing toys under their own brand in response to a fall in OEM orders. They produced a number of new products, including a robotic dog (MegaByte), T-Rex, and the Animaltronics and Dinotronics lines of remote control animals. In 1998 the company was purchased by Hasbro.
Shortly before the Hasbro sale, Peter Yanofsky reportedly caught physicist/roboticist Mark Tilden on the Discovery Channel, and soon hired him as a consultant. Initially Tilden worked part-time with WowWee while he continued his work with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, but in 2001, Tilden joined the company full-time. One of his first products with WowWee was the B.I.O. Bug, released in 2001. Unfortunately, while sales were good they weren't as strong as either WowWee or Hasbro would have liked. In part this has been attributed to the after-effects of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, while Tilden has also expressed disappointment with some of the limitations placed on the product design by Hasbro. After moving to WowWee full-time in 2001, Tilden focused his attention on developing Robosapien.
While Tilden was developing Robosapien, Hasbro canceled the project several times, leading Yanofsky to negotiate out of the contract in 2003. Robosapien was released in 2004, and over 1.5 million were reportedly sold in the first five months of sale. Robosapien was the first commercially available biomorphic robot, and the first to integrate personality-like features. Tilden continued to develop the line with the Robosapien V2 (released in 2005), which added functionality like speech capability; RS Media™ robot (released in 2006), which included user-created functions, and Roboreptile (also in 2006). The Roboquad a four-wheeled robot (released in 2007); the RS Tri-Bot, a three-wheeled robot (released in summer 2008), RS Media (2006) and the Roboquad (2007). the Joebot and the Roborover (both released in 2009) expanded on the concept of robots with personality.
In 2007, working with inventor Sean Frawley, WowWee released the FlyTech Dragonfly – a remote control flying ornithopter. The Dragonfly was named as one of the inventions of the year by Time in 2007. The success of the Dragonfly led to other flying toys, such as the Bladestar (a remote controlled helicopter) and the Butterfly (a wind-up ornithopter aimed at younger children). The FlyTech Bladestar was awarded an “Editor’s Choice Award 2008” by Popular Mechanics magazine as a technologically advanced innovation.
Under Optimal Group
On November 23, 2010, Engadget revealed that WowWee and a number of retailers are being sued for trademark infringement by Gibson Guitar Corporation for unlawfully using the shapes of the bodies and headstocks of Gibson's signature guitars in their Paper Jamz line of toy guitars. WowWee has denied any wrongdoing and has asserted that the shapes Gibson claims as trademarks are generic and therefore cannot function as trademarks. On November 24, 2010, the court denied Gibson's request for a temporary restraining order, but on December 22, 2010, granted Gibson's motion for a preliminary injunction. The case was later settled, with WowWee paying Gibson an undisclosed amount for licensing the likeness of Gibson guitars, according to Gibson CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz.
In 2010, the management of WowWee entered into a support agreement with Optimal Group, and took the company private again.
In the following years, WowWee continued its high pace of innovation and product launches. In 2014, MiP was released, to wide acclaim. It the winner of more than 10 major Tech and Toy awards, including the Toy Industry Associations’ 2015 TOTY award for Innovative Toy of the Year. MiP was also named 'Innovative Toy of the Year' at the National Robotics Week.
- Krueger, Justus (February 28, 2006). "Robot climbs evolutionary ladder". South China Morning Post. Hong Kong.
- "History". WowWee (Official Site). Archived from the original on 2008-04-08. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
- Goldman, Francisco (November 28, 2004). "A Robot for the Masses". The New York Times.
- Feder, Barnaby J. (February 21, 2002). "Toyland Is Tough, Even for Robots". The New York Times.
- Taylor, Michael (November 16, 2004). "Innovative toy packs a punch". South China Morning Post. Hong Kong.
- Bullard, Dave (August 9, 2006). "Techno comes to toy town". The Courier Mail.
- WowWee RS Tri-bot
- Marriott, Michel (February 8, 2007). "If Leonardo Had Made Toys". The New York Times.
- "Gadget of the Year: FlyTech Dragonfly". Time. November 1, 2007.
- "Optimal Group Completes WowWee Acquisition (Press Release)". Yahoo! Finance. November 7, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-12-22. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
- "CES 2008: Meet the new WowWee Robot Lineup!". RoboCommunity. 2008-01-08. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
- RoboCommunity Team (2008-01-14). "WowWee Robots 2008 – Release Dates and Pricing Guide". RoboCommunity. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
- "Gibson sues WowWee, retailers over Paper Jamz toy guitars". Engadget. 2010-11-23. Retrieved 2010-11-24.
- "Gibson Responds to WowWee Settlement Article". MMR. 2011-01-12. Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2011-02-09.
- Optimal Group Enters Into Support Agreement With Management of WowWee Group for Offer of US$2.40 per Share, March 17, 2010
- named Innovative Toy of the Year at National Robotics Week, ToyNews, April 16, 2015
- WowWee® Shifts Into Hyperdrive at CES with REV™ and MiPosaur™, PR Newswire
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to WowWee.|
- Official website
- WowWee Alive Website – All about the WowWee Alive Cubs
- RoboCommunity – The official WowWee Robotics user community
- Hands-on with the new Wowwee bots (Engadget, January 6, 2006): A preview of three upcoming robots: the Robosapien RS2 Media, the Roboreptile, and the P-Bot
- Live from CES: Robosapien Roundup (Gizmodo, January 7, 2006)
- Optimal Group to Acquire WowWee
- Optimal Group web page