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?