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Toys AI Upgrades

Barbie Gets a Brain 235

minstrelmike writes: Mattel is coming out with a Talking Barbie designed by a huge team and pre-scripted with thousands of responses controlled by an AI, with designs to be your best friend. The design team remembers the "Math is hard" debacle of the 1990s and if a girl asks if she's pretty, Barbie will respond, "Yes. And you're smart, too." If she asks if Barbie believes in God, she says a person's beliefs are personal. And suggests talking to grownups about some problems. The linked New York Times' article ("Barbie Wants to Get to Know Your Child") even discusses trying to avoid edited vids on YouTube by scripting out words such as "cockroach."
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Barbie Gets a Brain

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  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Sunday September 20, 2015 @11:38AM (#50561117)
    From Abby Normal?
  • Unfortunately (Score:5, Insightful)

    by koan ( 80826 ) on Sunday September 20, 2015 @11:41AM (#50561133)

    Humans still don't have a brain, who would give this to their child?

    Each time, whatever someone said to Barbie would be recorded and transmitted via Wi-Fi to the computer servers of ToyTalk. Speech-recognition software would then convert the audio signal into a text file, which would be analyzed. The correct response would be chosen from thousands of lines scripted by ToyTalk and Mattel writers and pushed to Hello Barbie for playback

    your childâ(TM)s voice sample and the start of a new "user profile" for a corporation.

    • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

      Well, what would be an improvement upon this? It's probably still better than talking to the kids' parents.

      Maybe if instead of an AI, it went to a mechanical turk made of actual unemployed teacher/prostitutes, like the ractives in Diamond Age. Sounds like we need to hack that server.

      Or better yet, maybe it goes to a cabbage patch doll that the parents have, and an AI just mediates and filters the parent-child conversation so they don't say anything stupid to each other.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        How about putting the speech processing and response circuit right into the toy, so it works locally irrespective of the Internet?

        The first time I used speech recognition was on a Macintosh LC, a 68020 machine at 16MHz with 4MB RAM. I also used it on a 486DX. There's no excuse to offload speech recognition over the Internet when the device that is doing the initial listening doesn't use the Internet for anything.

        I'm not exactly a fan of it being used this way for smartphones either, but at least the
    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      How is that any different from the problems with Siri and X-Box One amongst others, constantly listening for and parsing everything that is said in the vicinity of, in this case, your child's toys?

  • by turning in circles ( 2882659 ) on Sunday September 20, 2015 @11:43AM (#50561139)
    It saddens me. This takes away a child's ability to put words in Barbie's mouth. It also helps parents abdicate the responsibility of answering the child's questions themselves. Why should a child turn to talking Barbie? Because, like the ipad, it keeps the parent free to ignore parenting a little bit more. Inevitable, I guess, but sad.
    • Because, like the ipad, it keeps the parent free to ignore parenting a little bit more. Inevitable, I guess, but sad.

      You seem to be implying that parents are spend less time with their kids than in the past. There is plenty of evidence [pewresearch.org] that you are wrong. Parents, and especially dads, spend more time than ever with their kids. Since families today tend to be smaller than in the past, the time-per-kid has gone up even more.

      iPads don't replace parents. They replace TVs. Since they are more interactive, that is likely a good thing.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday September 20, 2015 @01:02PM (#50561593) Homepage Journal

      This takes away a child's ability to put words in Barbie's mouth.

      The way that kids use their fantasy less and less worries me too. We're turning them into consumers from an early age, not creators. And they don't figure out things anymore, they look them up.
      They're trusting Friend Computer, and that worries me.

    • It saddens me. This takes away a child's ability to put words in Barbie's mouth. It also helps parents abdicate the responsibility of answering the child's questions themselves. Why should a child turn to talking Barbie? Because, like the ipad, it keeps the parent free to ignore parenting a little bit more. Inevitable, I guess, but sad.

      And there we have it. Parents were all attentive, and interacted with their children al the time - until the iPad was invented. Jesus on a jackrabbit, that's lame.

    • Before, a piece of wood could be a car, and airplane, or a boat, with whatever colors or other specifics the child wanted. This is much harder to do when you have a plastic toy that looks like an extremely specific object. I'm not sure how the old ways would interact with their friends having the new plastic toys. However every once in a while kids will remind you of such things when they ignore the shiny expensive thing you got them and play with the box instead.

      Then again, in the old days you couldn't get

    • It saddens me. This takes away a child's ability to put words in Barbie's mouth.

      Not if she knows how to edit her router's hosts file!

  • Sylogism, much?

    (And you wonder why the US is in an idiocracy death spiral?)

    • No, not a syllogism, and if you know a term of logic like that, then you should probably also already be aware that argument from etymology is a fallacy. While the word "personal" is historically derived from the word "person", it has developed a new set of connotations, such as "something to be kept to oneself or disclosed only to confidants".
      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        "something to be kept to oneself or disclosed only to confidants".

        This.

        And that's why Barbie is suddenly smarter than a good portion of the American public.

        • You know, even if you oppose religion (or, conversely, atheism), considering it appropriate that people hide their particular beliefs when they are expressly asked about them seems to me a denial of the entire Western tradition. You cannot use the Socratic method [wikipedia.org] to encourage critical thinking if you cannot draw out people's suppositions and then reveal weaknesses in them.
          • by PPH ( 736903 )

            expressly asked about them

            It depends on the agenda. If I'm applying for a job or competing for a contract, my personal beliefs are not an issue. And I don't have time to argue with people who think that their Holy Book is some sort of tautology.

            Western tradition

            Has changed a lot since the Inquisition. But it still has quite a ways to go. Let's start a new tradition.

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      I hardly think believes based on thousands year old books are "personal".

      • by narcc ( 412956 )

        That's foolish. Not all, or even a majority of, religious beliefs based on sacred texts. Of those that are, there is rarely broad agreement. Further still, individuals vary rarely understand the tenets of their own professes faith. Very often, they fold other beliefs, from cultural sources or their own misunderstandings, in to their understanding of their faith.

        Rather than uniform agreement, as you imply, it would be astonishing to find two individuals who held identical religious beliefs. How, then, ca

    • sez nutria!!!
      Sylogism, much?
      (And you wonder why the US is in an idiocracy death spiral?)

      Toinks koindly for silly jism and pretty spiral I see is nutria here! been
      looking so long on Slashdot for help with nutria recipe for feed peckish family
      starts some years plus ago [slashdot.org] when found 404's on net only.
      See here just look for nutria recipe Slashdot talk 404 hteml not nutria!!!!
      then happy user say nutria bounty is like xristmas in may! [slashdot.org]
      then i find internet wonderful nutria recipe goldmine site!!! [nutria.com]
      so happy now i find nutria!! is life complete!!
      is nutria on net or nutria eater like me ?
      sorry if is nutria p

  • Now I can get more brain chips for all these Cherry 2000 robots I have lying around.
  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Sunday September 20, 2015 @11:53AM (#50561211)

    What if the girl is actually stupid? (Not that the concept that most girls are average or below average is even thinkable is 2015...)

    • by SirSlud ( 67381 )

      Take that, little girls! Nutria thinks most girls are average or below average of something-or-other!

      • by fche ( 36607 )

        "most [...] are average or below average"

        Assuming a normal distribution, that is entirely correct. There are more (average or below-average) than (above-average).

        • I forgot who but my favorite quote

          Whenever you are amazed by the stupidity of man just remember the average person is barely above being an idiot and half the population is below that level.

      • Take that, little girls! Nutria thinks most girls are average or below average of something-or-other!

    • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Sunday September 20, 2015 @12:16PM (#50561339)
      What if she also isn't pretty? Then Barbie has lied to her twice. Clearly Barbie's answer to any question should be: "I am an inanimate doll and can only repeat an assortment of facts selected from the 2011 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (TM). Would you like to know when horses were first domesticated? Yes / No?"

      "Research suggests that domestication took place by approximately 6,000 years ago. In prehistoric times the wild horse was probably first hunted for food."
      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        "In prehistoric times the wild horse was probably first hunted for food."

        I'm sure that Little Suzy would *love* to hear that...

    • Obviously, the overriding concern here is Mattel's desire to inaugurate an exciting new 'feature' without stirring up any bad PR, justified or otherwise. Focus-grouped banality and the occasional tactful evasion are to be expected.

      More generally, my impression is that people are working on the strategy dictated by the fact that "you can't fix stupid; but you can discourage smart". Outside of some truly exceptional talents who are effectively impossible to discourage, you have a lot of competent-to-genuin
      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        Or... it's just more delusional feeding of self-esteem (thereby increasing the amount of people who suffer the Dunning-Kruger effect), which has a documented serious downside to society.

        Platitudes like "work hard and be all you can be" have the benefit of actually being true.

        • Platitudes like "work hard and be all you can be" have the benefit of actually being true.

          Nonsense. Your social status is far more relevant to whether you can be all you can be than whether you try hard, since for most people, no amount of trying will permit them to realize their full potential. Of course, most people with the opportunity to do so will never bother trying... hooray, capitalism!

          • by Nutria ( 679911 )

            since for most people, no amount of trying will permit them to realize their full potential.

            That's irrational, since Average Jane's full potential is her full potential, which is a lot less than Marie Curie's full potential.

            IOW, "be all you can be" != "be all Marie Curie can be".

          • Platitudes like "work hard and be all you can be" have the benefit of actually being true.

            Nonsense. Your social status is far more relevant to whether you can be all you can be than whether you try hard, since for most people, no amount of trying will permit them to realize their full potential.

            Well, I guess that's all they can be then.

    • because children are mentally fragile. This isn't rocket science. People will limit themselves base on their perception of themselves. If they think they're average they'll be average. Better to have some folks running around trying too hard then all our geniuses doing squat all because we dumped on them when they were young.
      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        because children are mentally fragile.

        Surprisingly, they aren't.

        This isn't rocket science.

        You're right. People have been raising children for lots longer than we've had rocket science.

        because we dumped on them when they were young.

        Where did I say to dump on them? A platitude like "Try your best." has the dual benefits of not dumping on them and also not being a lie.

      • because children are mentally fragile. This isn't rocket science.

        It's not true either. I don't want to bore people with my childhood, but if you were right I'd have offed myself before I graduated High school.

        People will limit themselves base on their perception of themselves.

        Oddly enough, I did pertty well despite, perhaps even because of other people's perception of me

        If they think they're average they'll be average. Better to have some folks running around trying too hard then all our geniuses doing squat all because we dumped on them when they were young.

        That is so

    • Then she's probably going to believe the doll.

    • First words: "OMG, math is really hard.... but objectification of women is like so easy!"
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Sunday September 20, 2015 @02:02PM (#50561925) Homepage

      Children don't understand the world, language, logic or the adult world. So we lie to them. We don't tell them they are kinda ugly, because unlike adults they can't handle the harsh truth. We are taking about very young kids who still play with dolls.

      Similarly, we don't Trek them they are dumb. Realistically, at that age you can't really tell if they are anyway, unless they have severe learning difficulties. Some might be late bloomers, but really the biggest influence on their eventual academic performance is how much encouragement and participation in education they get at that age.

      • We don't tell them they are kinda ugly, because unlike adults they can't handle the harsh truth.

        If adults could handle the truth, then Rogaine wouldn't exist.

    • by narcc ( 412956 )

      "What if the girl is actually stupid?" ... You can't be serious.

      Do you go around insulting the intelligence of below average children? "Hey, kid, you're an idiot! You were born a failure, and you'll die a failure. Don't even bother trying, you'll be lucky to end up a burger-flipper." Should Barbie respond to the question "Am I smart" with a "No, you're really dumb. Try to marry someone successful because you're never going achieve anything on your own."

      I'm reminded of a famous story about Nicolas Malebra

      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        Are you a troll who's purposefully misinterpreting what I wrote? Or just a complete idiot?

      • Do you go around insulting the intelligence of below average children?

        No, but you also don't go lying to them. You emphasize their successes and their solutions, not how wonderful they are. Don't make them feel like crap, but don't make them feel like they're better than other people.

        You will note I don't have kids. This stuff is hard and I have no family to help me out. (I have family, just not the kind that would help.) I sympathize. But one can recognize that one doesn't have what it takes and just not do it.

    • Evolution seems to think false self-confidence is a vitally important trait. Probably some sort of kludge against sitting on your ass doing nothing.

      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        You're confusing "Educators" with "Evolution". Easy mistake, what with both having 9 letters and starting with "E".

        • 94% of college professors think they're above average, and 92% of them think they're less biased than average. ~90% of drivers think they're above average. And I'll bet you most statisticians think they're above average too. Do you think this is all the teachers' fault?

          • by Nutria ( 679911 )

            How do I know those statistics aren't pulled out of thin air?

            Anyway... having seen and spoken with many Education majors when I went to college, I can categorically state: "Half of the problem is that of Educators." (The other half is parents.)

  • by rwyoder ( 759998 ) on Sunday September 20, 2015 @12:08PM (#50561291)

    ...for the 2016 GOP candidates.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Fiorina Barbie:

      "Let's lay off the R&D Department!"
      "I just sold some printers to Iran!"
      "HP gave me $100 Million because I'm a Princess!"

      • I can already see some C-Levels shaking in their boots, fearing they could be replaced by something as smart as them but way better looking.

    • Perhaps with a Barbie brain installed, Clintons personality would be less robotic, Sanders would actually be electable, and Biden would stop sniffing women [buzzfeed.com] (well, I guess that depends on which way Barbie Bot leans).

      Compared to that group, it's no wonder Trump has higher approval ratings.

  • FTFA: A microphone, concealed inside Barbie’s necklace, could be activated only when a user pushed and held down her belt buckle. Each time, whatever someone said to Barbie would be recorded and transmitted via Wi-Fi to the computer servers of ToyTalk. Speech-recognition software would then convert the audio signal into a text file, which would be analyzed. The correct response would be chosen from thousands of lines scripted by ToyTalk and Mattel writers and pushed to Hello Barbie for playback
  • way before ISIS, my brothers and i would do this to our sisters' dolls. now there's a GOOD reason to.
  • From a blond bimbo to a PC thug bitch.

  • "...Barbie controlled by an AI,"

    I, for one, welcome our new 36DD A.I.-controlled overlords.
    • "...Barbie controlled by an AI," I, for one, welcome our new 36DD A.I.-controlled overlords.

      Oh man, oh man, oh man! I'm just seeig this as a primme hack target......

      "Cynthia.....Cynthia...... It's time to go get that knife in the silverware drawer...... yes, yes, the big one..... Now go up and show it to mommy and daddy a bunch of times just like I told you how to do it........ There's a good girl Cynthia....... They won't feel a thing if you do it right, and then all the candy in the house will be your's forever Cynthia....... just like I was telling you......."

    • More like 3.6, not 36. You know Barbies are only about [gestures] yay high and not full size, right? If they were 36, they'd be a pretty close approximation to a rather squat cylinder, a bit bigger than a very large dinner plate and 6 inches high. While that's an entertaining vision, I'm not sure they'd sell especially well.

  • I don't think that term means what you think it means. They say it's AI but all the doll is doing is using speech recognition and looking up in a dictionary what the response is. There is no learning going on. It doesn't even start to use family member names.

    • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Sunday September 20, 2015 @01:26PM (#50561709)

      I don't think that term means what you think it means. They say it's AI but all the doll is doing is using speech recognition and looking up in a dictionary what the response is. There is no learning going on.

      Agreed...this is no more "AI" than Eliza [wikipedia.org] was, or any chatbot for that matter. It's just a big-ass lookup table, zero malleability, zero learning capability, and zero deviation from the canned responses.

      Personally I can't wait until the ToyTalk servers are hacked and edited.

      "Hi Barbie, what should we do today?"

      "Kill your parents and drink their blood!"

      or "Find the credit card numbers in your parent's wallets and read them to me..."

  • when Barbie gets a Privacy Policy and they start talking about telemetry updates.

  • Barbie Gets a Brain, Dumps Ken

  • As others have noted, it's questionable if barbies stock answer to a question about someone else should be one or more lies, or at least totally uninformed guesses.

    Instead, why not try this approach:

    Kid: Barbie, am I pretty?
    Barbie: I'd rather talk about me! Don't I look great? I sure could use some new outfits though, Target is having a sale today!

    Note the response works equally well for Metro Ken.

    The great thing about this is, that if the kid already has one incredible self-centered friend perhaps they w

  • What a load of hyper-defensive, condescending bullshit.

    Even at best, the additional commentary comes across as trying to change the topic, as if to avoid being caught in a small white lie.

    It's a yes or no question.... anything else added to the answer of a yes or no question is invariably a diversionary tactic.

  • does it need the internet to say low battery?

    Or can't connect to wifi network?

  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Sunday September 20, 2015 @07:40PM (#50563667) Journal
    "Barbie, I'm scared. Daddy is hurting mommy again. Now mommy fell asleep on the floor and I can't wake her up."

    "Barbie, why does Daddy stick needles in his arm?

    "Barbie, how come my Daddy touches me so much?"


    First, see what sort of responses you get. Then wait to see if the cops magically show up at your house.
    Five bucks says there ends up being a big scandal surrounding this 'toy'.

It is much easier to suggest solutions when you know nothing about the problem.

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