Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Barbie: She talks the talk, but does she walk the walk?

Hello Barbie
Christopher Stark for The New York Times

So . . . Barbie now speaks her mind. Maybe we'll find out what she really thinks of Ken. But the real question is . . . how do we get her to stop talking? Or more to the point, to stop listening. I'm serious, sort of. Read this:
This fall, Mattel plans to introduce Hello Barbie, a Wi-Fi enabled version of the iconic doll, which uses ToyTalk's system to analyze a child's speech and produce relevant responses.

"She's a huge character with an enormous back story," Mr. [Oren Jacob, the chief executive of ToyTalk,] . . . says of Barbie. "We hope that when she's ready, she will have thousands and thousands of things to say and you can speak to her for hours and hours" . . .
Fine, if you want a doll that can outtalk you. But what else is it doing? Listening?
"Is this going to be some creepy doll that records what is going on in your home without you knowing it?" asks Nicole A. Ozer, the director of technology and civil liberties at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. "What is being recorded? How long is it being stored? Who is it being shared with?"
This is only the beginning of a new generation of 'intelligent' toys, and they'll be getting more and more 'intelligent.' For more on this, see Natasha Singer's article, "A Wi-Fi Barbie Doll With the Soul of Siri" (NYT, March 28, 2015).

This could get creepy . . . or even scary.

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