A prototype for Mattel’s ubiquitous Barbie doll has been developed that incorporates advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to allow it to process human speech, and even answer profound questions like: “Do you believe in God?” The new Hello Barbie, unveiled to The New York Times ahead of its November launch, will combine AI software with a microphone, WiFi and speech-recognition capabilities in order to communicate through more than 8,000 lines of pre-recorded dialogue.
Through the speech-recognition software, key words are used to trigger certain responses from the Hello Barbie. For example, “good”, and “fantastic” would cue the doll to say phrases like: “Great, me too!” The toy is also able to remember answers − such as being told a relative has died − in order to draw upon them for future interactions or avoid such topics altogether.
Examples of Hello Barbie’s dialogue
“You’re right. I should apologise. I’m not mad anymore.”
“Fantastic. I just know we’re going to be great friends.”
“I think a person’s beliefs are very personal to them.”
“That sounds like something you should talk to a grown-up about.”
“Just remember this: You made friends with me right away.”
“Have you ever felt jealous about something?”
Hello Barbie is arguably the most advanced iteration of artificial intelligence to be found in a children’s toy, but Mattel is not the only manufacturer to be working on integrating the technology into its toys. In 2013, UK-based Supertoy Robotics developed a cuddly toy that can listen, learn and interact with its surroundings, while evolving its capabilities through an app described as “Siri on steroids”.
Connected toys, robotics and AI is really where the industry is heading, a lot of retailers are actually expanding their field of interests, in a vision of helping us with AI in many areas.