March 16, 2015

Is the new talking Barbie cool or creepy? Latest News Videos - #Barbie

A new Barbie doll will be able to have two-way conversations with children.

Hello Barbie will listen to a child's conversations in order to learn about their likes and dislikes, allowing the doll to converse with them like a human friend would.

The toy, which was unveiled in February, records the child's voice using an embedded microphone which is activated by a button on the doll. Audio recordings of the child are then sent over a server to be recognised and converted into information which Barbie uses in her responses.

In a demonstration at the doll's launch, a spokesperson from Mattel representative welcomed Hello Barbie to New York, to which she replied, "I love New York! Don't you? Tell me, what's your favourite part about the city? The food, fashion or the sights?"

The Mattel representative told the crowd that Mattel wanted to update the doll over Wi-Fi, like any other electronic device, so Barbie would remain up to date with the latest tween trends, and be able to mention them in conversation.

Barbie will also remember personal information about the child, such as hobbies and pets' names and hobbies.

Privacy advocates are trying to stop Mattel releasing the doll before Christmas.

"Imagine your children playing with a Wi-Fi-connected doll that records their conversations and then transmits them to a corporation which analyses every word to learn all of [the child's] likes and dislikes. That's exactly what Mattel's eavesdropping Hello Barbie will do if it is released this [northern] fall," a petition put together by advocacy group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood reads.

"Kids using Hello Barbie won't only be talking to a doll, they'll be talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial. It's creepy and creates a host of dangers for children and families."

The group believes the information given by the child playing with the doll could be used for sinister purposes.

"Children naturally reveal a lot about themselves when they play," the petition, which already has more than 5000 signatures, states.

"In Mattel's demo, Barbie asks many questions that encourage kids to share information about their interests, their families, and more; information advertisers can use to market unfairly to children."

Hello Barbie is scheduled for release this spring.

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