What is it?

"It's much better than Game Boy. More functions, changing games, no contest."

(Maksim Kharchev, Moscow University Student)

The Cybiko is an internationally released "Wireless Intertainment (sic) Computer". The major concept behind this ambitious device is that it has all the functionality of a game playing personal organiser, with wireless chat functions.

The brainchild of David Yang, 32, a Russian of mixed Armenian-Taiwanese parentage, this "ahead of its time" toy may prove rival to console giants such as Nintendo and Sony. It comes in various colours, many of them bright and Day-glo. Designed to fit in one hand (the left one, so right-handers may find it difficult to use, I'm afarid), the funky looking thing has indentations on the right side, designed for your fingers to provide extra grip. Commands are issued using various function buttons, but one of the greatest things about this is the qwerty keyboard on the front. For those with fingers larger than a four-year old, a stylus has been provided that slots in the back. Turn it over, and there is a groovy antenna for you to flip up. Turn it on, and it warmly vibrates at you. Walk near someone else whose personality matches yours, and it alerts you that there is a friend nearby. Found a friend? If you can't see them, use the chat and 'e-mail' functions. Or, start up a wireless two player game (the web site boats hundreds of free games and applications).

Techinal Specifications

11 MHz Hitachi HS8/2246 32-bit RISC processor
4 MHz Atmel AT90S313 coprocessor
512K working memory
512K Flash memory for storage
59 x 40mm LCD screen with four level grey scale and 160 by 100 pixel resolution
30 channel RF 2915 digital radio transceiver
RS-232 Serial communications port
68-pin expansion slot
Rechargeable batteries
Size: 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.9 inches
Weight: 4.3oz (122g)

Radio Frequency: 869.7-870.0 MHz
Baud Rate: 19,200

Wait, did you say 'Russian'?

With Yang's surname, the made in Taiwan sticker on the back, and Japanese name (Cybiko means Cyber-Girl in Japanese), you'd be forgiven for mistaking this as an asian product. But, the Cybiko was designed, programmed and tested in Russia.

"They don't exactly hide the fact that Cybiko's Russian, but let's say, they don't highlight it either."

(Vaidyanathan Sivakumar, Fund Manager)

Yes indeed, the Cybiko is Russia's baby. Arriving from Moscow, this gadget has the brainpower of several young scientists behind it, graduates of the elite cybernetics schools of the old Soviet military-industrial complex. This semi-disownership is probably due to marketing reasons. Moscow is the same place where the Soviet Union built the computer systems for inter-continental missiles.

It may surprise you that although the Cybiko has been marketed in America and most of Westen Europe, the toy is not for sale in Russia. Why? Well, the use of the radio frequency it operates on would land anyone in jail, outside the development lab. Cybiko's marketing Gurus also know that there are not many Russian teenagers who can afford the $100 device.

Cybiko Company Structure

Cybiko, Inc. employs 200+ scientists, engineers and other personnel in Moscow (Russia), Chicago (USA), and Taipei (Taiwan). The company includes:

Cybiko Development Group (CDG)

  • Cybiko Advanced Technologies (CAT): Specialized in compact multitasking OS and unique RF networking development.
  • Cybiko Design Center (CDC): Based in Russia, specialized in custom product development including schematics, PCB, mechanical design, SDK, software applications, web-site infrastructure and web content.
  • Cybiko Wireless Games (CWG): Specialized in the design and development of high quality games and applications that can be ported to different platforms/devices.

Cybiko Wireless Systems (CWS): Taiwanese mass production facility.

Cybiko Marketing Sales (CMS): North American Marketing & Sales division specialized in distribution and sales of all Cybiko products and accessories.

IMHO

My girlfriend and I each own one of these, mine is a translucent blue, to match my mobile phone and Gameboy Advance. I can honestly say straight away that there is no risk of me getting rid of my Gameboy, I mean, four-level grayscale versus 511-32,768 colours at once? No contest. I don't care how far the maximum range of the RF is. At 150m outside, that's pretty poor. But, saying that, it is quite a wonderful tool. It does have a vast range of free software (most made with the free SDK, a professional version is available to buy, whose license allows you to sell your creations), ranging from WAP browsers to MP3 players to image tools.

While the idea of hunting other users around a psuedo-3D maze does sound appealing, I just don't know enough people who have one to take full advantage of it. Cybiko program developers are very proud of their next-gen Tamagotchi program, called Cylandia. It features these little guys (or gals, if you put down 'Female' in your personal profile), and you control their enviroment, from buying 'CyBurgers' to paying their income tax and watching the stock market for share prices (no, I'm not kidding). Can't wait to learn C so I can program my own software, maybe port a Perl interpreter or something...

Overall, I guess I own one for the funk value, but as soon as someone cracks these things and reverse engineers the RF protocols, perhaps with a few adjustments, it could be set to receive IEEE 802.11 signals (Ok, I'm living in a dream world now).

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