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Lawn ornaments mingle with visitors

People frustrated that their plastic pink flamingos can't carry on a conversation should talk to Bill Killian.

The 36-year-old inventor has designed a new breed of utilitarian lawn ornaments called the Lawn Buddy that can speak and take messages.

Killian spent three years designing the mechanical plastic creatures _ bunnies, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, gophers, raccoons and a gnome _ that automatically rise out of or from under flower pots and tree logs to query unexpected guests: "Can I take a message?"

Should the Lawn Buddy, now in the prototype stage, succeed, never again would delivery men or visitors find a dead end at a locked front door.

"Everybody needs a Buddy," Killian said Monday.

Visitors trigger a motion detector, and the Lawn Buddy broadcasts brief announcements recorded by the owners. The guests can reply by talking to the plastic creatures and recording a message.

Killian is talking with manufacturers and hopes to get the Lawn Buddy in stores next spring.

Besides the Lawn Buddy, he envisions a line of Home Buddies and Room Buddies. One creation, a chocolate cake filled with an animated pig, can be programed to tell dieters: "Haven't you had enough?"