Colorful Handheld Aims for Teen Market

ByABC News
July 11, 2000, 1:59 PM

N E W   Y O R K, July 11 -- If it catches on with the high-school crowd, it couldbe the terror of teachers everywhere: a colorful handheld gadgetthat allows teens to send messages to their friends in classwithout the hassle of passing notes.

The Cybiko, which looks like a walkie-talkie with ablack-and-white LCD screen and small keyboard, aims to fill the agegap between Palm handhelds for mobile professionals and theNintendo Game Boy for kids.

To capture the teenage market, New York-based startup CybikoInc. has seized on their social needs. The gadget fulfills basicorganizer functions, but also communicates wirelessly with othersof its kind up to 300 feet away.

We want to create a social environment were teens can chat andinteract, Cybiko President Donald Wisniewski said. We see ahuge opportunity with 12- to 16-year olds.

Users can trade messages and even play games with one another.One game even imitates the online shoot-em-up PC games so popularamong teenage boys.

A PC Connection

The Cybiko connects to PCs as well, and the company providesfree software on its Web site that can be downloaded to the devicethrough a cable.

If one Cybiko within range is hooked up to an Internet-connectedPC, other Cybikos within range can send and receive regular e-mailsfrom the Internet.

Theres an expansion slot in the device as well, which Cybikosays will be able to take an optional digital music player thatuses the popular MP3 format. As if the Napster file-sharing programwere not enough to scare the music industry, one MP3-equippedCybiko will be able to send music to other Cybikos.

Good Vibrations?

The Cybiko alerts users to received messages by vibrating. In aslightly presumptuous way, it also alerts users if another Cybikocarrier matching their romantic preferences comes within range.

After I had described myself to the Cybiko, it assumed that Iwas looking for a slightly younger woman who is between 5 foot 3inches and 5 foot 11 inches in height and unbelievably weighingonly 60 to 80 pounds.