Talking ‘Hello Barbie’ Doll Is Basically the Stuff of Nightmares
Shouldn’t ‘Hello Barbie’ really be named ‘Backstabbing Barbie’?
Barbie has gotten a lot of flak over the years. From her body shape to her career choices to her taste in men, she’s more controversial than most celebrities—and there’s way more to come. Mattel, along with San Francisco startup ToyTalk, is set to release ‘Hello Barbie’ this fall, a talking Barbie that has real conversations with kids and—like a parrot from hell—remembers everything the child has ever said.
“Mattel has always been at the forefront of inspiring conversations between girls and their dolls beginning with Chatty Cathy in the late 1950s. The number one request we receive from girls globally is to have a conversation with Barbie, and with Hello Barbie we are making that request a reality,” Stephanie Cota, SVP, Global Communications told Huffington Post.
The play-by-play of how ‘Hello Barbie’ works goes something like this: Kids press a button on the doll, and ‘Hello Barbie’ asks them questions. A microphone on the doll records the child’s answers and sends them to ToyTalk. ToyTalk records the information and responds, the whole idea being the child forms an actual bond with their doll, like they would a friend in real life. Over time, ‘Hello Barbie’ gets to know you, your likes and dislikes, and talks to you based on the information she’s gathered about you during your conversations. Totally not creepy at all.
As a little girl who used to own a Barbie, or nine, I understand the desire to have a conversation with your doll. I mean, when you’re six or seven years old, your world’s pretty limited and you eventually run out of material. I can barely keep up my half of the conversation to this day, never mind when I had to make up my doll’s too. At the time, I thought it would be amazing for my Barbie to pick up the slack… you know, then the “Chucky” movies came out.
Obvi, parents are shitting their pants over the doll potentially (aka definitely) eavesdropping and invading their child’s privacy. The Siri-like feature may be violating the regulations under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits collecting information from children under the age of 13 without parental consent, though ToyTalk has explicitly stated this isn’t the case at all.
“While the underlying technology of our products works much like Siri, Google Now, and Cortana, ToyTalk products never search the open web for answers,” Oren Jacob, CEO of ToyTalk, told The Register. “Responses are carefully crafted by our own writing team, and conversations recorded through our products are never used to advertise or market to children or anyone.”
Then again, there are those pesky people called hackers. All I know is if I wanted a friend who was going to spill my secrets and publicly humiliate me, I’d just go to school.
How do you feel about the creepiness that is ‘Hello Barbie’?
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