WowWee Group Limited, an Optimal Group company (NASDAQ: OPMR), is a Hong Kong-based company founded by Richard and Peter Yanofsky. Initially from
Canada, the two brothers moved to Hong Kong to form the company in 1982 as an independent research & development and manufacturingoutfit.cite news | last = Krueger | first = Justus | date = February 28, 2006| title = Robot climbs evolutionary ladder | work = South China Morning Post] As an OEM seller, they produced products such as the Power Rangers Power Gloves and the Talking Tots dolls.cite web | title = History | work = WowWee (Official Site) | url = http://www.wowwee.com/history.php | accessdate = 2008-05-01 ] 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.cite news | last = Goldman | first = Francisco | date = November 28, 2004| title = A Robot for the Masses | work = The New York Times| url = http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/28/magazine/28ROBO.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1&oref=slogin ]
Shortly before the Hasbro sale,cite news | last = Feder | first = Barnaby J. | date =
February 21, 2002| title = Toyland Is Tough, Even for Robots | work = The New York Times] Peter Yanofsky reportedly caught physicist/ roboticist Mark Tildenon 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 9/11and the anthraxattacks, 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 5 months of sale.cite news | last = Taylor | first = Michael | date =
November 16, 2004| title = Innovative toy packs a punch | work = South China Morning Post] Tilden continued to develop the line with the Robosapien V2 ( 2005), Roboreptile( 2006),cite news | last = Bullard | first = Dave | date = August 9, 2006| title = Techno comes to toy town | work = The Courier Mail] the RS Media( 2006) and the RoboQuad (2007). The Robosapien humanoid product line evolved to include the Robosapien V2 robot, launched in 2005, which added functionality including speech capability; and the RS Media™ robot, launched in 2006 and featuring a complete multimedia experience, allowing users to create and edit functions. The next generation, the RS Tri-Bot robot, a three-wheeled personality-packed companion equipped with different play modes for hours of entertainment, will launch in the summer of 2008.
In 2007, working with inventor Sean Frawley, WowWee released the
FlyTech Dragonfly- a remote control flying ornithopter.cite news | last = Marriott | first = Michel | date = February 8, 2007| title = If Leonardo Had Made Toys | work = The New York Times] The Dragonfly was named as one of the inventions of the year by Time in 2007.cite news | date = 2007| title = Gadget of the Year: FlyTech Dragonfly | work = Time | url = http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1677329_1677346_1677370,00.html] 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). FlyTech Bladestar is the first flying toy with sensor-based navigation and one of only 20 products awarded with an “Editor’s Choice Award 2008” by Popular Mechanics magazine as a technologically advanced innovation.
In 2007, products from the WowWee Robotics product line were a featured McDonald’s Happy Meal boys brand in most McDonald’s territories worldwide. Since 2005, WowWee’s Robosapien V2 has made appearances in museums across the United States in a traveling exhibit called "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination." The exhibit, which combines costumes and props from the films with real-world technologies, will complete a four-year tour at the end of this year. In addition, a selection of WowWee robots can currently be seen as part of the National Design Triennial, an ongoing exhibition series that originated with the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and has traveled to prominent museums in Boston and Houston over the course of two years.
On September 27,
2007, the publicly-traded Optimal Groupannounced they had entered into a purchase agreement to acquire WowWee Ltd, which they completed in November of that year.cite news | date = November 7, 2007| title = Optimal Group Completes WowWee Acquisition (Press Release) | work = Yahoo! Finance | url = http://biz.yahoo.com/iw/071107/0325849.html | accessdate = 2008-05-01 ]
At the 2008 CES several new products were announced with their estimated release dates and prices. [cite news |title=CES 2008: Meet the new WowWee Robot Lineup! |publisher=RoboCommunity |url=http://www.robocommunity.com/article/12414/CES-2008--Meet-the-new-WowWee-Robot-Lineup-/ |date=2008-01-08 |accessdate=2008-06-24] [cite news |title=WowWee Robots 2008 - Release Dates and Pricing Guide |publisher=RoboCommunity |url=http://www.robocommunity.com/article/12508/WowWee-Robots-2008---Release-Dates-and-Pricing-Guide/ |author=RoboCommunity Team |date=2008-01-14 |accessdate=2008-06-24]
In 2008, WowWee concluded an agreement giving the producing team of Avi Arad (Arad Productions) and Steven Paul (Crystal Sky Pictures) the right to produce a feature-length motion picture inspired by WowWee’s Robosapien robot. The movie, titled “Robosapien: Rebooted,” is set to combine a compelling live action story with the most advanced computer-generated imagery (CGI). Under the agreement, WowWee will have the exclusive worldwide right to market toy merchandise associated with the film and its characters, and would receive a share of the income from all other merchandising associated with the film.
* [http://www.robocommunity.com RoboCommunity] - The official WowWee Robotics user community
* [http://www.engadget.com/2006/01/07/hands-on-with-the-new-wowwee-bots/ 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
* [http://us.gizmodo.com/gadgets/ces/live-from-ces-robosapien-roundup-147166.php Live from CES: Robosapien Roundup] (Gizmodo, January 7, 2006)
* [http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/marketwire/0307709.htm Optimal Group to Acquire WowWee]
* [http://www.optimalgrp.com/default.asp Optimal Group web page]
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