Just in time for the holiday season, Mattel is releasing a new, smart-in-the-technology-sense model of doll called Hello Barbie. Using a microphone and a WiFi connection, the toy can process verbal information and hold a “conversation” with your child, much in the same way that Siri can. It feels like an inevitable evolution of the brand, something toy manufacturers have tried before with pull-strings and digital chips but could never quite get right. Now that the tech has caught up with the vision, however, we’re in for an almost-sentient version of Barbie.
The doll and the R&D process behind it is detailed in a new New York Times piece creepily titled “Barbie Wants To Get To Know Your Child.” All in all, it sounds kind of cool — as long as it’s executed right — if not a little dystopian. The article highlights some typical exchanges you might expect to occur (“What’s your full name?” / “Barbara Millicent Roberts.”) and some not-so-typical ones (“Do you believe in God?” / “I think a person’s beliefs are very personal to them.”)
There’s also, as writer Hazel Cills points out on Twitter, this:
Barbie would be able to ask kids what music they liked, for instance, and was ready for nearly 200 possible responses. Taylor Swift? ‘‘She is one of my super favorites right now!’’ Barbie would reply. My Bloody Valentine? ‘‘They are so emo.’’
200 possible responses! I really, sincerely need to know Barbie’s verdict on every single artist — that sounds like reason enough to buy the doll alone. Of course she loves Taylor Swift (who doesn’t!?), and it’s amusing that she thinks MBV are emo — IsThisBandEmo.com declares that they’re not, but maybe that requires some re-evaulation in light of this new evidence.
The new Hello Barbie dolls come out in November.