Toy maker Mattel and its San Francisco-based startup partner, ToyTalk, have introduced an Internet-connected Barbie that can have real two-way conversations, play interactive games, tell stories and have fun with her owner. The interactive Hello Barbie prototype was launched at the New York Toy Fair on Valentine’s Day this year. The ready for market Hello Barbie is expected to be available later this year and cost around $75.
More on Hello Barbie
Children interact with Hello Barbie through a microphone and speaker in Barbie’s necklace. Rechargeable batteries hidden in her legs allow the device to operate fro around an hour before it must be recharged. Hello Barbie has a “hold-to-talk” button on her belt buckle to so she only responds only to intentional commentary.
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Of note, everything the doll says is penned by employees of the companies. A smartphone app is used to connect the doll to the Internet, and once it’s online, the child can talk to the doll and the words are transmitted to ToyTalk’s secure server. These conversations are collected so the staff will know what kids want to say to Barbie and the best responses to the various queries.
Recording these interactions over time allows ToyTalk to create a custom database of her owner’s likes and dislikes, which can then be incorporated into conversation.
ToyTalk also provides parents with several levels of control over their child’s interactions with the device. Parents choose specific topics they don’t want their kids discussing in advance, and Barbie will move the conversation away from those subjects. Furthermore, parents can choose to have their child’s information deleted from ToyTalk’s databases at any time
Potential Hello Barbie security problems
Given that all of Hello Barbie’s interactions occur over a secure connection, notes Martin Reddy, co-founder of ToyTalk, this means hacking attacks are not very likely. A hacker can only get into the secure server with a password. Passwords can, of course, be stolen or hacked with a brute force style attack, but the company has several layers of security.
Furthermore, the company can create and store audio files of the child-doll conversations on its website if the parent requests it. According to Oren Jacob, the CEO of ToyTalk, there will be a security verification process for parents to access the files. Liked any password, however, if the hackers figure it out, they will also have access to all child-doll conversations