Watch any kid play with a toy for long enough and invariably they will strike up a conversation, albeit a one-sided one. But what if one day Barbie talked back?
This was the central idea when Mattel partnered with US start-up ToyTalk to create Hello Barbie. With “Hello Hello Hello” emblazoned on her t-shirt, Hello Barbie is just dying to get to know your kids. Plus, she’s an excellent listener. Hello Barbie is designed to remember what your kids say and adapt her future conversations accordingly. If your kids mentions that they love to dance, then guess what? The next time your kids engage with Hello Barbie, Barbz will mention how much she loves ballet.
But Barbie isn’t the only toy in the playroom ready to have a chit-chat.
A new Kickstarter campaign utilizes patent pending technology that also allows kids to have an ever-evolving conversation with their toys. CogniToys created by Elemental Path, builds on the tech that allowed IBM’s Watson, a cognitive computing system, to beat the world’s best Jeopardy players. Much like Hello Barbie, the magic of the toy is that it learns from conversations and integrates the new understanding into future conversations. This means that no two toys have the same personality once they’ve engaged in a conversation.
By simply pressing the chubby dinosaur’s tummy, kids can do the following:
- Ask thousands of questions and receive age-appropriate answers. (Come to think about it, I have a few questions I’ve been meaning to ask.)
- Tell the toy what to do and in doing so uncover the toy’s hidden talents.
- Create their own stories and hear a selection of stories.
- But best of all: tell and listen to knock-knock jokes.
But this talkative dino is not just a great conversationalist, he/she (I’m tempted to say “she”) also integrates rhyming, spelling, vocabulary and mathematics into conversations providing endless learning opportunities disguised as fun. Parents will be able to monitor their kid’s progress through a cloud-dashboard. The cloud-dashboard will also allow parents to monitor and alter the content of the dino’s conversation.
The elephant in the toy room is the issue of hacking and personal security, and the creators of CogniToys have been at pains to point out that the data transferred to and from the toy is anonymised. But, in light of the recent hacking of another internet-powered talking toy, Cayla, the concern is unlikely to go away any time soon.