ActiMates were interactive plush toys manufactured by Microsoft from 1997 to 2000 that talk, sing, move and play games. They were marketed as interactive learning tools for children aged 1-4. There were seven ActiMates: Barney (released in 1997), Arthur and D.W. (1998), and the four Teletubbies (Laa-Laa and Po in February of 1999, Tinky Winky and Dipsy in Summer of 1999).
Unlike the Barney, Arthur, and D.W. ActiMates dolls, ActiMates Teletubbies didn't contain robotics. Instead, they contained a 3-colour LED screen in place of their TV Tummies. Pictures, letters, numbers, and colours are displayed in green, yellow and red. The Teletubbies were unique: each one had 17 unique songs and 20 unique games with minor exceptions (Tinky Winky, Laa-Laa and Po Play Twinkle Twinkle, and Dipsy does not. Tinky Winky and Laa-Laa play the Tubby Toast game, Dipsy and Po play the Tubby Custard game, etc.).
Each time the Tummy Screen was pushed, a song would play. Pressing it again before the song ended resulted in the song being played again, this time on a different instrument (Three different instruments are available). Each song had a unique animation. For example: If a song was playing, like Itsy Bitsy Spider, it would show a red circle going up (the spider), then little green lines going down (the rain) followed by a big rising yellow circle (The Sun) and the red circle once again. If a song like Wheels on the Bus was playing, it would show a yellow rectangle moving across the screen (the bus), with the spinning small red circles (the wheels), and the yellow rectangle moving across the screen again.
Pressing any hand and any foot at the same time selects a game. Repeated presses cycle through a list of games, each defined by a unique image in green. Pressing a foot or a hand alone starts the game.
Microsoft released the T.V. Pack three times: 1997, 1998 (with an introductory video explaining how to set up the transmitter and featuring clips from the shows compatible with the dolls), and 1999 (with new packaging and a different introductory video, now featuring information on the ActiMates Teletubbies lineup).
The latter version included a special radio cartridge that inserts into the slot beside the battery chamber that enabled the Teletubbies to interact with VHS tapes and daily airings of Teletubbies (on select PBS stations). Though PBS no longer airs ActiMates-compatible shows, VHS tapes with the ActiMates technology intact are still common to find.
The T.V. Pack increases the vocabulary of the Teletubbies by about 200 words and 6 songs.
The ActiMates line also introduced the P.C. Pack, a product similar to the T.V. Pack with a blue transmitter, which was compatible with ActiMates Barney, Arthur and D.W. P.C. games (the latter two could also interact with the Arthur website at www.pbs.org). Teletubbies software was never released due to the poor sales of the Teletubbies and the decline of the ActiMates line.
Like the majority of the show's merchandise, all four ActiMates characters (as well as ActiMates Barney) were also available in the United Kingdom (both two ActiMates Arthur characters were not released there). The T.V. Pack may have been sold there, but with a different video than both two U.S. versions of the Pack.