New Talking Barbie- Technology innovated or terrifying disaster waiting to happen?

A new and improved Barbie, who needs friends now that Barbie can physically talk back?

In a recent toy fair in New York, Mattel launched their newest brand in Barbie, called Hello Barbie. This new and improved doll can now have intellectual conversations with the player of the doll.

Hello Barbie is able to do this through voice-recognition software, that allows the doll to listen to the child talking and give responses related to what the child just told the doll. The doll also remembers what the child says and can refer back to that information at a later date if the child brings up something related to a topic they have discussed in the past.

What has parents in a tizzy is the ability for the doll to connect to WiFi. Similar to what iPhones have with iCloud, the information given to Hello Barbie goes into a cloud and travels through servers allowing the speech to be remembered and processed to help Barbie give a proper response.

Parents are worried that the information they are receiving will not be handled in a proper manner and for good reasons parents do not want their children’s personal thoughts and feeling being put out there for the world to hear.

The Washington Post reports, “Mattel and ToyTalk, the San Francisco-based startup that created the technology used in the doll, say the privacy and security of the technology have been their top priority. Mattel is committed to safety and security, and Hello Barbie conforms to applicable government standards,” Mattel said in a statement.

Parents and even Mattel come to similar cross roads, whether it is deciding when to use newer advances of technology in their product or whether it is parents deciding when and how much technology based toys and gadgets should be allowed in a child’s life. Both individuals need to decide when it is too much and when it is not enough.

Technology is growing rapidly and if companies like Mattel want to stay afloat in the marketing world they need to conform in some ways, in incorporating new types of technology in their products.

“The data [collected from Hello Barbie] is never used for anything to do with marketing or publicity or any of that stuff. Not at all. The audio files the doll collects will be used only to improve the product.” said ToyTalk chief executive Oren Jacob in the Washington Post.

The doll creates a new and innovative way for children to interact with their toys. Parents are becoming busier whether it be in the workforce or their daily day to day lives and cannot always engage in intellectual talk with their children. Having Hello Barbie allows children to talk to their doll about their day, their thoughts or feelings and now with new technology the Barbie can respond back and allow the child to engage in stimulating conversation. Something they may have missed out on that day if they did not have the doll.

This is not to say that the child should only rely on the doll to have conversations with, but every now and then if the child’s parents are busy and their childhood friends are not around the doll gives the child the opportunity to talk to “someone” and discuss their thoughts for the day.

It is understandable for parents to be wary of Hello Barbie and the technology and power it has with releasing their children’s voices and intimate thoughts into the unknown “cloud” of the cyber world. However, parents do get to have a say and a sense of control of what is being said to their child’s doll.

Parents can choose if they so desire to receive daily or weekly emails with the ability to see the audio files of what their child is saying to Hello Barbie. If there is something a parent does not like or want their child to be saying they can then address the matter to their child. It allows the parent to be fully aware of what is going on.

Parents can also look at this new technology savvy doll as a way to better understand their child. A child may feel more comfortable discussing something with their doll rather their parents. With the ability for the parents to monitor what their child is saying it could better help with communication overall between the parent and child.