An Artificial Pet 

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Young children love pets but are perhaps not the best when it comes to looking after them. The solution might be an artificial pet.
Gupi Guinea Pig

Meet Gupi!  No, that is not a mis-spelt reference to the small fish, introduced into the UK in 1866 by the Reverend John Guppy, but the name of a robotic guinea pig.  This lovable creature has been particularly demanding of my attention of late.  The reason for this attention seeking will become apparent a little later.

Ready to fulfil the role of substitute pet, without the need for regular cleaning sessions or visits to the pet shop for food, Gupi is a solid unit measuring 24 x 12 x 19cm and is decked out in brown fur that doesn't quite disguise the underlying construction of the body.  Concealed within Gupi's body are various electronic gizmos that will definitely appeal to the young and young at heart. 

Gupi arrives in packaging that can form the guinea pig's home from home when not the centre of the child's attention.  Included in the box, along with Gupi, are a recharging unit; a carrot which acts as a linking device when recharging, a remote control, and a tasty treat for Gupi; plus a small instruction book.  You, or the child, will need to provide an ample supply of love and attention if you hope to get the best out of Gupi.

Gupi Guinea Pig being cuddled

The initial recharging of Gupi can take up to 12 hours and is best carried out prior to giving him to the child.  Once fully charged, the attention seeking aspect of Gupi comes into play.  Gupi does require a great deal of love and affection in the form of strokes and caresses.  At first the child will rewarded with various sounds and body movements as Gupi responds to all the attention with squeaks and a certain amount of head shaking.  A further bout of stroking and tickling should be enough to encourage Gupi to venture out on his own as he scurries about the floor to explore his environment.

Using the sensors located in different parts of his body, Gupi is able to react to the attention he gets.  Infrared sensors enable him to avoid obstacles although he does need to be trained to be more careful by slightly pressing his back when he gets too close to an obstacle.  His back sensors will respond to strokes and petting which then encourages him to emit sounds and be brave enough to wander around.  Further sensors located around his head can be used to excite him; send him to sleep (which he can do himself if ignored); and wake him up.  Light sensors in his eyes will initially cause Gupi some distress when in dark places but a generous amount of affection will reassure him that there is nothing to fear.  If Gupi is rather loud at times then the volume level can be adjusted by holding him upside down.

As mentioned earlier, Gupi is provided with a carrot that has its own power supply (three LR44 batteries).  The carrot, when placed in Gupi's mouth, will act as a link to the main recharging connection.  It can also be used to tempt Gupi to travel in specific directions as he attempts to reach his food.  Gupi does have an on/off switch but using this will cause Gupi to forget all his lessons and he will need to be retrained.

Aimed at the 4+ child (and those who fall into the Peter Pan category), Gupi has plenty of child-appeal with its variety of realistic sounds and body animations.  The review unit was supplied by Thumbs Up (UK) Ltd and has been priced at £39.99 although by shopping around you should find one at a cheaper price.

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