I’ve always thought dolls were creepy -- not because I’m a guy, but because it seems that horror movies are chock-full of evil dolls trying to kill you. How many “Chucky” sequels do you have to watch before the stuff becomes real in your mind?
Now, there is Hello Barbie, a network-enabled, cloud-powered, AI-driven doll that will hold a conversation with your kid. According to Tech Republic, “Hello Barbie's necklace is both a recorder and a microphone. Using Wi-Fi, the jewelry will pick up a child's questions and conversations -- and transmit them back to a control center for processing. Speech-recognition software, operated through ToyTalk, will detect the input. Then, Hello Barbie will reply, using one of 8,000 pre-programmed lines.”
Wow. It's like no one remembers the "Terminator" movies!
What’s happening here? With the price of Wi-Fi chip sets going down to pretty much nothing and the rise of the cloud, we’re seeing the Internet of things becoming the Internet of creepy toys. Indeed, the press has raised concerns that your kid’s privacy could be compromised since the voice responses are stored on the back-end cloud servers.
Barbie aside, the technology has real benefits beyond the cute stuff. For example, it could provide interactive learning that goes beyond what the toy can store locally, or it could monitor health issues, such as for a child with epilepsy.
This is only the beginning. By the end of 2017, your home Wi-Fi hub will likely connect to everything from your oven to dozens of your kids' toys. All will use the network to link to clouds for the the real power behind the devices. Is this a good thing? Some devices have great potential applications, but most applications will simply end up in creepy dolls.