Thursday, September 17, 2015

The New Barbie

The New Barbie

by Julia Robinson 

     Artificial intelligence technology is taking the world of toys by storm.  Collaboration between companies, ToyTalk and Mattel, is developing Hello Barbie, which would be able to converse with children using the artificial intelligence technology. While Barbie will only be able to communicate 8,000 lines of dialogue, this is a huge leap from dolls that could only say a few lines from the push of a button or pull of a string. [1]
Communication, storing of information, and impact on the next generation are key points to artificial intelligence in Barbie. By using artificial intelligence, Barbie is able to have an actual conversation with a realistic voice. Compared to the current robotic telling of facts that many smartphones have the capability of doing, Barbie’s communication is a two way street that goes beyond simple question and answer. This presents the new idea of technology with personality that could introduce a new way of interacting with computers.  Barbie can also remember key information about a child such as if a family member died, if the she has siblings, and what her favorite color is. Having a doll that can remember this information is incredible, but also discomforting in my opinion. Knowing that companies constantly collect information, I would be wary to entrust that conversations Barbie transmits to ToyTalk servers wouldn’t be hacked to steal personal information from inside a family home. In addition to hacking concerns, are concerns for the general welfare of children, our next generation of innovative leaders. For starters, since Barbie does have conversation skills, and tailors to the child’s interests, this could easily harm her ability with social interaction and friends since Barbie is easy to get along with at home.  Also, Barbie has dialogue ready as opposed to traditional Barbie where children would supply both sides of the conversation. This decreases the use of imagination, which could keep them from thinking outside the box or for themselves and just follow a guideline or template of life, keeping new ideas and inventions from being recognized.
With artificial intelligence entering the world of toys, it is easy to see how integral technology is in our everyday lives. Keeping this in mind, we have to decide if we want to work towards robots that can think for themselves, or if we need to stay the ones in charge.

[1] Vlahos, James. "Barbie Wants to Get to Know Your Child." The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 17 Sept. 2015. <>.


  1. I definitely agree with you that we must be cautious of this new invention, but it may not be all bad. I think being able to talk with a doll could be revolutionary, because Barbie will most likely be programmed to speak lines of dialogue which are positive and impact children for the better. For instance, if a child goes home and tells Barbie she doesn't like someone at school, Barbie will probably respond that we should be nice to everyone. Although I think this could be amazing, I feel like children may also get very frustrated with Barbie if she does not understand them. Many kids have speech impediments or just difficulty talking, and getting Barbie to recognize their speech could be near impossible. We did not really grow up with any toys like this as children, but this does not mean that we should regard this invention as negative, and we should give it a chance because it may decrease bullying, or even just give a kid a new friend.

  2. I agree as well that we should be cautious of this new invention. Growing up a kid, it is very common for people to have "imaginary friends" or stuffed animals to talk to. Having an actual toy that can respond back and have a conversation with a child can be dangerous for a child's social skills. Kids need to learn social skills and by chatting with a toy all day long, they will lose that face-to-face interaction that is needed for development. Also, we don't know how the Barbie will respond to what a child says. What are its limits to censorship of inappropriate things? It is very common for animated shows and toys to have inappropriate scenes or features that kids don't catch on until they are older. There are too many specifications for something like this to happen. It is too risky to give this to a child, especially because of the fact that they are still developing in life.


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