Codenamed "Gepetto" for the motion technology inside the dolls, the Actimates toys were Microsoft's attempt to get into the toy market, especially the digital sector that was growing very popular by the late 1990s.
The first of these dolls, modeled after Barney, was first displayed at the New York Toy Fair in 1997 to much praise. Immediately put into stores, Barney quickly became a huge success that holiday season. Dolls based on Arthur, his sister D.W., and the Teletubbies were also made following the success of the Barney plush.
While Barney can be used as a stand alone toy, the main feature is the ActiMates doll's interactivity with the PC and television.
To get the ActiMates to interact with the TV show or the videos, a hockey-puck-shaped transmitter device called a TV Pack must be purchased separately and connected to the video-out connector of the TV set, while to have the ActiMates interact with the specialized computer software (developed by 7th Level and published by Microsoft), another hockey-puck-shaped transmitter device called a PC Pack must be purchased separately and be connected to the MIDI/game port connector of the PC.
When used as a stand-alone toy, Barney has a 2,000 word vocabulary and is able to sing 17 songs in addition to being able to play 12 different games. These actions can be achieved by pressing the various sensors throughout the plush's body.
For example, if one were to squeeze one of Barney's hands, he would play through one of the games. Covering Barney's eyes, which have light sensors, and uncovering them would let the plush play peek-a-boo with the user.
Using the PC Pack, Barney could interact with special PC titles developed by 7th Level and Microsoft. Because of the updated capabilities of this pack, Barney's vocabulary jumped from 2,000 words to an impressive 14,000 words in total.
The software makes use of a special programming library called "ToyAPI", which communicated with the ActiMates via the PC Pack. Actimates Barney is required for the pack-in title, "Fun on Imagination Island", but was optional for the other titles.
When not using the toy, Barney would appear on screen in his place in most of the titles. Actimates Barney could also help the user in the various PC games. Like in stand alone mode, Barney can play Peekaboo with the characters in the PC games.
By using the TV Pack, ActiMates Barney becomes a sort of viewing buddy and interacts with special encoded tapes and broadcasts of Barney & Friends (even if they were taped off of TV).
Squeezing his hand would make him say a phrase like "I like watching TV with you." "Let's watch this show together." "Here we go." "Whoa." "(laughs)" "Look. our friends." "There's Baby Bop." "There's BJ." "There are my friends." "Let's watch this show let's all about like this." "Whoa." "It's BJ." It's Baby Bop." "Hi, Baby Bop." "Hi, BJ." "There are our friends." "Hi, there everybody." "Hello there. how are you." "Oh, boy." "That's was great." "Good idea." "Come on. let's go." "That's right." "All right." "That's my sure." "That's good to remember." "Yum." "Why hope." "I love to here that." "Great." "Hooray." "Oh, yeah." "Okay." "Yup." "Oh goody." "(yawn)" "good night." "Yummy yummy. mmm mmm." "Wow. look at the boat." "No." "Ze hea nahaddar." "Be sure to saying thank you for someone you something." "Yeah." "Ho-ho." "That's the spirit." "Yay." "Remember." "Uh oh. look out." "Uh-huh." "Uh-oh." "Oh, no." "Yes." "Good job." "Give a friends are here." "I really like that song." "That's was fun." "That's was terriffic." "What a good story. (laughs)" "What a good song." "Buen trabajo." "That's was beautiful." "That's was stu-u-upendous" "That's was super dee duper." "That's was a beautiful songs." "Boy oh, boy." "Let's go." "Aha." "Boy. oh, boy. oh, boy." "Wow." "Whoa. that's was great." "Hip, hooray." "(laughs)" "Goodbye, Professor Tinkerputt." "Goodbye, Mother Goose." "I love you you love me. whe're a happy family. with a great big hug and the kiss from me to you. won't you say you love me too?." "I love you you love me. whe're best friends like friends should be with a great big hug and the kiss from me to you. won't you say you love me too?." "I love geting hugs." "Goodbye, Baby Bop." "Goodbye, BJ." "There sure our friends." "(laughs)" "Remember, i love you." "Thank you for watching TV with me." and "Thank you for watcing this show." Barney would also sing along to the songs and comment on various events in the episodes and videos.
Actimates Compatible Videos
- Due to the difference in functions between the PC Pack and TV Pack, the ActiMates will not interact with episodes of Barney & Friends nor Barney videos if they are being watched on a computer monitor using a tuner card with the PC Pack plugged in. Likewise, it will not interact with a TV that is connected to a computer and has a TV Pack is plugged into the TV.
- Computers without MIDI port capability will not be able to run the PC Pack.