Mattel is to release an Internet-connected Barbie that can remember and repeat a child’s comments. And, yeah, I think we all know where this is going.
The $75 Hello Barbie toy will include both speech synthesis and speech recognition, powered by a battery that lasts an hour between charges. The batteries are in Barbie’s legs, so there’s not much room for capacity. The microphone and speaker are in her necklace. She’ll only be “listening” when the child is pressing a button, currently located in her belt buckle.
The speech recognition processing is carried out online via a company called ToyTalk, hence the need for the Wi-Fi connection. As well as playing word games and talking with the child, the doll will tell stories, selecting the topic based on previous discussions. Hopefully Barbie will share her thoughts on opportunities for women in computer science again.
The range of dialogue Barbie speaks will be expanded over time and writers will be able to access the comments kids speak in return to help them plan new conversational branches.
Logical enough as such a toy may be in 2015, it does seem an open invitation for hacker pranksters, whether they be online troublemakers or older siblings with a twisted sense of humor.
Indeed, a similar talking doll named Cayla, launched last year, was quickly hacked with somewhat disturbing results.
Warning: Video below contains bleeped out language.
[Image credit: BBC]