Mattel, the creator of the Barbie dolls, just announced that Barbie may not be the “dumb blonde” stereotype consumers always believed. In recent years, the toy company has come under fire for portraying Barbie as an inferior intellect; in 1992 the company even programmed Barbie to say “math class is tough!” Fortunately, for all of the young girls and boys out there that are ready for a Barbie to challenge their imagination and minds, Mattel just announced the creation of an artificial intelligence Barbie.
Since as early as the 1800s, toy makers have tried to make dolls speak in hope that one day they will one day sing and talk with a child. Barbie first found her voice in 1968 when a pull string activated 8 programmed phrases, a huge advancement from when dolls could simply say “papa.” This move to make Barbie more lifelike through artificial technology will help create a dialogue between the doll and the children playing with her with over 8,000 programmed lines of dialogue.
The technology is similar to voice recognition devices such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. By partnering with ToyTalk, an artificial intelligence company located in San Francisco, Mattel hopes to release Hello Barbie before the $6 billion holiday toy season begins.
In one demonstration of Hello Barbie, a young girl sat down with the doll and played a number of games. Some of these included helping Barbie cook pizza and s’mores while other conversations worked through complex social problems. During one session, Barbie asked the young girl for advice on how to apologize to a friend after a fight. She is also developed to remember details about her child companion, including favorite colors, if a child has same-sex parents, or if a loved one had passed away. Perhaps the days of Geppetto’s Pinocchio and Toy Story are not a far off reality for children all over the world.