The new children's toys don't just talk, they listen and respond intelligently.
Talking toys are nothing new, but this holiday season children will be unwrapping toys that listen and reply back intelligently.
In November 2015, Mattel began selling Hello Barbie, described by the company as the “first fashion doll that can have a two-way conversation with girls.” Featuring speech-recognition technology and a wifi connection, the doll is programmed with more than 8,000 dialogue lines and 20 interactive games. It was quickly exposed as vulnerable to hacking, however, sparking consumer backlash.
Meanwhile, the CogniToys Dino, a dinosaur that uses speech recognition to carry on conversations with kids, is earning rave reviews. The toy taps into IBM’s Watson machine-learning service, responding to a child’s vocabulary, interests and other traits, and evolving as the child grows. Time magazine named the toy one of the best inventions of 2015.
“A kid might say my favorite color is purple, and I really like basketball, and as we’re counting to ten we’re going to count purple basketballs,” says Donald Coolidge, co-founder of Elemental Path, maker of the CogniToys Dino. “As a kid’s engaging with a toy more often, we’ll change the complexity of answers, give more challenging responses such as, how far away is the moon? A five year old might get it’s really far, but a nine year old gets it’s 230,000 miles away, because they can actually comprehend that sort of answer.”
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Not everyone is comfortable with putting internet-connected devices in the hands of children, but attitudes are evolving quickly. “You’ve seen very little innovation for toys before the last two years or so,” says Coolidge. “You’re going to see toys get much cooler, technology kind of creep into everyday life, which has been largely a good thing for most of us, and it’s largely not been there in the kid space.”
As machine learning becomes cheaper and more sophisticated, it’s reaching into a growing array of internet-connected devices. Download The Future 100 for more trends for 2016.