A Wi-Fi Barbie Doll With the Soul of Siri

By: Lindsey Fratus

Ever wonder what kind of toys your children will be playing with? If the plastic toys of today will be able to keep up with the technology of tomorrow?

Well, in February Mattel and ToyTalk revealed a toy that is able to keep up to speed with the 21st century. A Barbie doll that can understand what you are saying, and promptly responds with an answer or comeback. Hello Barbie is basically a doll with an app inside, similar to the “Talking Tom Cat”. Children are able to talk to the doll and the doll can talk back. With every conversation they have the doll remembers facts about the child, like their favorite food, color, movie, and song, and stores the info to use in a later conversation.

The doll connects to Wi-Fi and is able to receive new information from “the cloud” to remain up to date. Say, if a new popular song comes out, the doll will know about it and be able to talk about and sing it with the child. The hope for the doll is that it becomes the child’s best friend and “will have thousands and thousands of things to say and you can speak to her for hours and hours”. With the doll bursting with this new software, it is believed that the target market will expand. Currently Barbie’s target market is 3 to 5 year olds. With this Siri-like doll, it is hoping to target girls 5 to 10 year olds.

Some parents and child advocate groups, like Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood in Boston are asking Mattel to scrap the project. There is fear that the doll will record things in the home and eavesdrop on conversations. There is also a concern about where the conversations between the children and doll are being stored. Advocacy groups think that the conversations will be used for marketing and advertising purposes. There is also concern that the child’s intimate conversations will be heard by others. Some children confide in their toys more than people and parents fear that it could be publicized. To monitor the conversations, parents can sign up for a daily or weekly email summarizing the conversations between Hello Barbie and their child.

This new toy launch comes after releasing its fourth quarter numbers. Mattel’s profit had dropped 59%, 21% of that being from Barbie sales declining. In January, CEO Bryan Stockton resigned after many reports of low numbers. The company is hoping that this new toy will pull them out of the hole of negative numbers and into the 21st century of technology. With times changing, Mattel is trying to stay relevant by producing a successful brand and product. If Hello Barbie is a success, it could be the start of personalized interactive toys for children.

So what do you thing, will this toy be the future for our children, or just a real life creep eavesdropping Chucky doll?

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/29/technology/a-wi-fi-barbie-doll-with-the-soul-of-siri.html?&moduleDetail=section-news-2&action=click&contentCollection=Business%20Day&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&pgtype=article

25 thoughts on “A Wi-Fi Barbie Doll With the Soul of Siri

  1. Sasha Letourneau March 31, 2015 / 2:25 pm

    There is something about this doll that makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like the idea of a doll that can “remember” the kids conversations and information. Its like the doll is spying on the kid. What if the information in the cloud gets hacked by someone. That kids information and conversations could be heard by anyone and I think that that is a huge invasion of privacy. The fact that the Barbie stores information to the cloud and the company itself can push new information to the doll then to me that means that the doll can provide the company with information. Its like company is spying on the house hold. Also we could get to the point of the kids friend is her talking Barbie and she may not wan to interact with people her age because she already has a friend.


  2. Chris Lantagne March 31, 2015 / 3:39 pm

    To me this whole thing is a little over the top.The fact that a toy could gather this amount of information about someone is a little alarming. I do think that something like this could actually become someone’s “friend” which is also a concern. It’s not going to be good if young girls think “friends” are dolls and not real people. They could become anti-social while at school and have trouble making real friends since they believe friends are really dolls.

    Hacking would also be an issue. The first thing I thought of was when people were hacking baby cameras. If you haven’t heard of this I would google it (probably the scariest thing I’ve seen). Strangers would hack baby cameras and in the middle of the night scream the child’s name. The homeowners often thought their house was being robbed. If baby cameras could be hacked then these certainly could. Lastly, the thought of a parent monitoring their child’s conversation with a doll is just absurd. It’s a little too much for me.


  3. Mackenzie Kilmartin March 31, 2015 / 4:32 pm

    Through the Hello Barbie’s feature of hearing a new song/product and talking about it, this introduces a whole new way of promotion. While I think it is good for businesses and offers much potential for them, this is also another form of what some might view as annoying advertisement. Like 15 second video clips on YouTube or pop-ups, kids, like any other consumer, will get tired of hearing something they are uninterested in. I think this is a negative feature for the Hello Barbie and a lot of children will lose interest.

    The ability for parents to sign up for a daily/weekly email is very controversial. Older kids that have more knowledge and personal privacy needs than 3-5 year olds might call this a major invasion of privacy. While it may be a positive feature for adults, the ones buying the product, the overall reaction and after behavior may not be satisfactory.


  4. Cody J. Russell March 31, 2015 / 5:00 pm

    There are pros and cons to this doll. As much as I hate to say it, I think the cons might be outweighing the pros of this doll. To start, it records everything. If mom and dad, siblings, or friends say something and it gets recorded it has the potential to be repeated. Not only this but everything said to the barbie gets put into the cloud. Who has access to the cloud? Would the government have authority to access it at anytime or would a certain someone be able to hack into the cloud and find information on small children and their lives? I think the story/lesson involving today’s social media/internet is that as soon as it’s online it’s for the world to see. What is any different about this cloud? I just feel that we as consumers aren’t as educated as we need to be when it comes to the cloud. Someone is in charge of it, someone has access to it and if one person has it, it is possible for anyone to have it.

    To move to a brighter side, this barbie could help parents to see what’s on their kid’s mind and find out the things the kids don’t want to tell their parents. It also gives the child a friend to have.

    All in all, this is going a little too far. A child should be able to interact with other children and not be confined to a doll. The is just one of those situations where the cons outweigh the pros. A great idea, but simply too many down sides.


  5. Lindsey Mattos March 31, 2015 / 9:54 pm

    I also feel there are pros and cons to this doll. My first thoughts are creepy Chucky doll. What if hackers figure out how to hack into this Barbie and start doing weird things?! But then again, I guess it is no different than having other technology in your home that can be hacked. On the other hand, this is probably going to be the direction toys are going in anyway, so if Mattel wants to increase sales and come alive again, being a pioneer in this creepy doll is probably a good idea.


  6. Paige Gilbert April 1, 2015 / 12:28 am

    I think the barbie could be a good and a bad invention, because with cell phones limiting our face to face contact with society we are becoming more and more anti-social, but this starts when you first get into social media and your phone. With the barbie targeting young children this will have the anti social factor starting earlier in development and could result in even worse behavior. The barbie is also a good invention because with all the technology coming out it is good that the toys are keeping up with the technology as well or else children would eventually grow bored.


  7. Joe Wathen April 1, 2015 / 4:30 pm

    Honestly I feel that this talking Barbie Doll is straight up creepy. Also who knows where the information is stored or what is it kept for. Plus, with all of these technological advances, this technology will become obsolete within a matter of years, sooner rather than later.


  8. Skye Stewart April 3, 2015 / 1:45 am

    Although the idea of the doll is a little creepy, I don’t think that there is anything to be afraid of. The doll is a way to keep up with today’s changing technology all while targeting the product toward little kids. It’s kind of a good idea because I could see this product selling really well, at least for awhile until something better comes along. We have so much technology now a days, so it is important that toy companies, such as Mattel, keep up with the new and improved technologies. When I was little, I did play with Barbie dolls. But now, little kids know how to use computers and cell phones, and even have their own iPads. Mattel had to come up with a way to keep up with modern technology, and I thought this was a good idea to do so.


  9. Olivia Boudreau April 3, 2015 / 5:44 pm

    At first I thought this doll was a good idea because it seems that something like this would be made eventually, but after watching how it really works in the video, I think its creepy! I wanted to give it a chance at first because I remember I thought Siri was creepy when it first came out. This doll is obviously different than Siri though because it is used solely for social purposes rather than to manipulate your phone. With all the technology that kids are exposed to today, I think coming out with a doll like this could only further isolate them and may even somehow interfere with their social lives and imagination.
    In the end though, I think this product will sell well and that products like this were going to come out anyways so at least Mattel is getting a head start.


  10. william matthews April 5, 2015 / 9:31 pm

    Personally, I think that this product goes to far. The whole point of having a Barbie doll is to facilitate imagination of little kids, not give them a fake “best friend.” It’s also hard not to think that children growing with this “fake best friend” will have trouble making real friends and become very dependant on the doll. The Barbie doll business can only go so far, for instance, a simple doll that you could maybe pull a string on and have it say a few things back to you. But once you start incorporating childrens feelings and emotions, thats when I think it goes too far.

    Also, if I were a parent I would feel uncomfortable with the doll in my house or around my children because of I would be afraid of where the conversations are being stored and what the doll is actually listening too (personal conversations.) Also, I would fear who’s listening, I would not want a random person sitting behind a computer listening to my childs intimate conversations with this doll. In conclusion, I think the idea of “hello barbie” is an awful idea and that Barbie companies should stick to basic dolls.


  11. Mattia Lanzi April 6, 2015 / 11:23 pm

    I really do not like this new idea of a doll. I don’t think its a good thing that the doll can “record” the kids conversations. I feel like that someone is spying me and my kid. Its a very big invasion of privacy. I would never buy that kind of Barbie to my children


  12. Ryan Etter April 7, 2015 / 2:17 pm

    I find this doll creepy based on the fact it can record and listen in on conversations. Its function to actually talk with a child is an understandable idea but it went over the top with recording and especially when something personal comes about the last person I would want chipping in would be a barbie doll.


  13. David Cravotta April 7, 2015 / 2:22 pm

    The idea of having my future child conversing with a doll instead of having conversation with actual people is concerning. We can’t stop technology and I get that. The doll will be able to record conversation and store this information within itself? That really isn’t easing information. I feel like it is a bit of invasion of privacy. I don’t want a little doll with wi-fi running around my house hearing what goes on. Their are intelligent people who can hack almost anything, and when they find loopholes to these dolls it’ll be like their in your home as well.


  14. Eva Trinidad April 7, 2015 / 11:15 pm

    I also think that this idea of the Barbie is way too much. These type of dolls will only take the place of a real friend that the a little girl can have. I will be concern on where does the information/conversation goes? Who is actually behind the recording of this conversation? It really is a safety issue for the child because the child can say any personal information to the doll thinking of it as a friend.


  15. Jackie Lurvey April 12, 2015 / 1:48 am

    I think this Barbie doll has a lot of issues with it. For starters, I think it is creepy, but aside from that, its recording capabilities can be a major issue. Along with the issues of what the children say to the doll, the doll will hear and record everything that is going on in the house. That could be finances, personal information, or any other type of conversations. If the doll were hacked somehow, that information could be compromised and cause a lot of issues. Secondly, the dolls purpose of being a friend to the children seems frightening. It encourages children to befriend technology, which may cause them to stray away from actual social interactions. As technology becomes a larger part of our lives, it already has an effect of social habits. This doll will discourage children to befriend other real children, which will affect social habits from an even younger age.


  16. Joe Greco April 15, 2015 / 6:50 pm

    I’m going to have to admit that ever since I saw the movie “Annabel” I have been deeply petrified of dolls, so that being said I may be a little biased when it comes to supporting this type of Barbie doll. However, on the basis it is could seem as a good idea because the Barbie doll remembers and is able to converse with a young toddler. But does it repeat everything it hears? Can it only remember certain things? These are questions I would ask if I were a parent purchasing this for my child.


  17. Patrick Saunders April 24, 2015 / 10:39 pm

    I think that is a really great idea for children to get to be able to express themselves and interact with a toy barbie doll but i cannot say that it isn’t a bit strange. First, i really don’t like the fact that the parents or anyone can retrieve and see what her child has spoken to the doll. I just don’t like the fact that when using the doll you are being monitored. I think that if a child saw her parents going over the recording and heard there own voice that they might be bit worried or confused.


  18. Kaitlyn Magnano April 26, 2015 / 5:53 pm

    I think this barbie doll is a little to much and slightly creepy. I think that kids in this generation already have problems with their social skills because alls they do is sit on their phone are play video games and I do not think that this talking doll will help with that. I feel that it takes the place a friend for young girls. The whole idea of other people listening to the conversations is also very odd. Overall, I do not think this is the best idea that the company had and I do not know how people will react to the new product, in terms of whether it will do bad or good. I think that the opinions on this doll can be split down the middle whether it is a good marketing idea or not.


  19. Keelyn Crowe April 27, 2015 / 7:43 pm

    I feel like they had a good idea with the talking barbie doll, but for me the negatives with this product outweigh the positives. To me it is somewhat creepy with the fact that she can hear conversations and then get to know you. Its almost like she’s a private camera spying on families. These conversations are stored and you never know where they could end up. Especially if there is a private conversation between parents and somehow the barbie repeats it to the child that could end up badly. I cant see many parents wanting to invest in this product for a young girl.


  20. Katherine Durant April 27, 2015 / 10:51 pm

    The idea behind this is very creative. But I do feel as though their are already products that have gone this root. I know there is already an existing doll of Dora the Explorer that can talk. And the thought that it remembers things about the user is a little bit creepy to me. I think the young kids that will be using this doll won’t even care too much about the features it has to offer. Kids have such a huge imagination that this may ruin how they come to know and use their toys in ways we used to as kids. I wouldn’t have this doll in my home because of the issues that could potentially arise from the use of it.


  21. Billy Muldoon April 28, 2015 / 12:05 am

    The idea of a talking Barbie is very creative, however the fact that this doll remembers things about you and can also hear you tends to creep me out rather than entice me to buy it. Personally, if I had a child and wanted to buy her a doll, this would be the last one I would purchase. I feel other parents wold make the same decision that I would, also. They want to be aware what their young child is doing. Also, what exactly is this doll programmed to remember? And how much can it remember? Those are questions that I think should be answered before this doll gets marketed globally.


  22. Meghan Saldutti April 28, 2015 / 1:21 am

    Barbie Dolls are definitely something children tend to cling to and make their own. This new talking barbie doll that also record children talking is definitely a one of a kind idea. I do not think I would want my child playing with a doll that records their what they say. I think I would want my own child to have their privacy even at a young age, just as I did when I was younger. It seems almost creepy to me; parents listening to what their young children say behind their backs. Let them be, let them become their own person instead of trying to almost “spy” on them.


  23. James Wagner April 28, 2015 / 1:24 am

    I’m pretty sure that they made scary movies about talking dolls. My opinion about this barbie doll is pretty self explanatory. I don’t think that the barbie doll should be able to listen in on conversations and be able to use the internet to search things. I do think that the concept of the doll that can actually talk back to you. On the other hand, I do believe that the children using this doll wont have a sense of imagination. Playing with dolls is supposed to be all about imagination and crazy, extravagant scenarios that only kids would think about. I think that this is almost too much technology that is put onto a child. But the market for this concept is huge. This can be the start to a new expensive child’s doll that is almost as powerful as our cell phones.


  24. mcdonaldb2013 April 28, 2015 / 1:28 pm

    This really freaks me out personally. I think (as was discussed in class) not only opens up the door for a child to have their privacy invaded but it could be dangerous if anyone took advantage of the technology. Another thing to think about was if the doll ended up in the wrong hands because if the child left it somewhere with sensitive information, that could potentially be detremental to the parents and children. While some people see it as a safe way for the child to open up about things that it otherwise may not and the parents can learn things through it, I think its much more important to create an open loving environment so that your child can tell you these things instead of relying on a doll to provide that safe space.


  25. Ryan Zdanwich April 29, 2015 / 2:08 am

    Everyone enjoys going to a baseball game with their families, and people will spend any amount of money to have a great family night at a sports game. I also love attending my city’s sports games because we have pride in them, and share positive experiences with everyone around us at the game. We feel comfortable spending much money at a game also because we know that other families do the same, and they definitely are greedy on their price, but they know people will pay them, therefore they are smart in making the most money possible.


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