Toymaker Mattel was super proud when they revealed their new interactive “smart” Barbie to the world. Similar to how the Apple App Siri works, the new Barbie records our spoken audio, uploads to a cloud server via Wi-Fi and then formulates a response, aka a Barbie that can talk back to you.
The Barbie was unveiled at the 2015 US Toy Show and is expected to retail later this year for US$74.99. “[Girls] want to have a conversation with Barbie,” a spokeswoman for Mattel said at the Show, adding that ‘Hello Barbie’ will be “the very first fashion doll that has continuous learning, so that she can have a unique relationship with each girl.”
What they weren’t expecting was the backlash from concerned parents who didn’t want their children’s conversations recorded and uploaded to a corporate owned internet cloud and stored for unknown purposes.
“Kids using ‘Hello Barbie’ won’t only be talking to a doll, they’ll be talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial,” said Susan Linn, executive director of Commercial-Free Childhood organisation. “It’s creepy—and creates a host of dangers for children and families.”
The group’s online petition has so far received over 5,000 signatures from equally concerned parents.
While Mattel say they are simply granting every little girl’s wish to have a Barbie that can talk back, the fine print that comes with activating the doll is pretty scary. “We may use, transcribe and store such Recordings to provide and maintain the Service, to develop, test or improve speech recognition technology and artificial intelligence algorithms, and for other research and development or internal purposes.”
This is pretty much a catch all for Mattel being able to do anything they want with your child’s voice recordings, including in this next paragraph – pass along to third party providers.
“We may also share feature extracted data and transcripts that are created from such Recordings, but from which any personal information has been removed, with Service Providers or other third parties for their use in developing, testing and improving speech recognition technology and artificial intelligence algorithms and for research and development or other purposes.”
Has technology and potential corporate greed gone too far with the ‘Hello Barbie’? Or are parents simply overreacting to the advancing world of technology their kids live in?
We find ourselves reminiscing of a simpler time, before toys were connected to the Internet. Watch this hilarious clip of kids today reacting to the 1980’s super popular talking toy, ‘Teddy Ruxpin’.