The Ninth Archive

A cute, large-eyed fleshy humanoid robot.


Puyo: Friendly Automaton

The box for every “Puyo: Friendly Automaton” advertises it as “the most lifelike toy your child will ever play with.” In the year that the Puyo was unveiled, there was no reason to expect this prediction to be false. “A walking phone that can hug you,” the box continues. “Nearly 7,000 distinct emotions and reactions. Learns your family’s patterns by observing and interacting. Activity-smartwatch and sleep-monitoring headband sold separately.” It was not a successful product at first, only interesting to hobbyist roboticists and tinkerers who wanted to reprogram it to perform flashy tricks, or control it entirely with the bluetooth wristband. Only after a video of a Puyo and a toddler tore through social media channels with an irresistible melange of cuteness, pathos, and product placement did it take its place in the pantheon of global must-have sensations.

There were over three hundred patents filed protecting the Puyo’s hardware and software innovations: the lifelike polymer skin, the flexcoil musculature, the lifelike eye-blinking algorithm. But mentioned nowhere in the official paperwork is perhaps its most crucial component: the tricyclic processor. Without it, the artificial intelligence features of the Puyo would scarcely exceed those of other voice-activated computers of the time. This CPU uses a highly unorthodox architecture that has successfully thwarted all attempts, by hobbyists and professionals, to understand it.

Three Worlds Inc., who makes the toy, has evidence that the woman who invented the tricyclic processor had three PhDs: one in engineering, one in computer science, and one in oneirology. They do not know this for sure because she worked for them as a painter under a false name. One of their corporate offices was undergoing renovations. At the end of the project, she handed a low-level manager a binder full of graph paper on which was handwritten the complete specification for the tricyclic processor. No one has seen her since, in spite of immense corporate resources devoted to finding her.