back to article Hello Barbie: Hang on, this Wi-Fi doll records your child's voice?

Toymaker Mattel has unveiled a high-tech Barbie that will listen to your child, record its words, send them over the internet for processing, and talk back to your kid. It will email you, as a parent, highlights of your youngster's conversations with the toy. If Samsung's spying smart TVs creeped you out, this doll may be …

  1. Mr C
    Devil

    the nsa will love this

    the sooner they can profile 'em, the better

    i applaud the efforts to keep up with the times, but really, what could *possibly* go wrong?

    1. FreemonSandlewould

      Re: the nsa will love this

      and Barbie responds "Drink sure to drink your Ovaltine"

    2. Alan J. Wylie

      Re: the nsa will love this

      They will ban them from their premises, just as they did with Furbies back in '99

      Doesn't look as if El Reg covered it back then

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/254094.stm

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    A chill just went up and down my spine at this....

    Maybe I'm overly paranoid about this, but my gut says this more than creepy. I would hope against hope that at least the "conversations" are encrypted? But still... headed to someone's server...

    This is almost surreal that the corporates are trying to get to the kids so they grow up with a trust in computers? or Big Sister/Brother being there for them?

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: A chill just went up and down my spine at this....

      I would hope against hope that at least the "conversations" are encrypted?

      The article does say the following...

      "The child's replies are recorded, encoded, and sent in an encrypted form to ToyTalk's servers, CEO Oren Jacob explained to The Register"

      However, it's still creepy...

      1. Tim Jenkins

        Re: A chill just went up and down my spine at this....

        So, another encrypted channel for those wicked people to use in plotting the supremacy of the Caliphate; has someone told the P.M. about this?

        (Actually, the thought of a bearded fundie whispering his fiendish plans to Barbie in order to communicate with his co-conspirators is just too precious to miss...)

    2. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Re: A chill just went up and down my spine at this....

      I would hope against hope that at least the "conversations" are encrypted?

      RTFA?

      The child's replies are recorded, encoded, and sent in an encrypted form to ToyTalk's servers

      1. mythicalduck

        Re: A chill just went up and down my spine at this....

        Who cares if they're uploaded encrypted when the T&C's say this:

        We may make such Recordings available to the parent account holder and permit the parent account holder to ***share such Recordings with third parties***

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: A chill just went up and down my spine at this....

          There in is just one problem. I'm also wondering, after reading all the comments, how many kids are suddenly going to get a surprise birthday present from the nice man in the white van...?

          This whole thing is just asking for abuse from the corporates, bad parents, and those who would do evil.

          Yeah.. it's encrypted... until it hits their servers and/or sends the email.

    3. Little Mouse
      Childcatcher

      Re: A chill just went up and down my spine at this....

      Seriously, the worst thing about all this isn't the toy company.

      Transcripts of the child at play sent to parents that want them? What kind of parent could be that messed up?

      1. Andres
        Devil

        Re: A chill just went up and down my spine at this....

        If I saw my friends children playing with one of these, I would find it very difficult to not say a few choice words/phrases into the toy in the hope the parents would get them in their weekly email.

  3. NorthernCoder
    Childcatcher

    IoT

    Internet of Toys

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    The privacy policy says it records video too?

    Kill it. Kill it with fire.

    1. frank ly

      Re: The privacy policy says it records video too?

      I wonder what sort of videos the police would find if they raided the company's servers?

      1. VinceH
        Childcatcher

        Re: The privacy policy says it records video too?

        Here, too - and I'm glad I wasn't the only one who picked up on this:

        "When users interact with ToyTalk, we may capture photographs or audio or video recordings (the "Recordings") of such interactions, depending upon the particular application being used."

        Recording and uploading what a child says is bad enough - but photographs and video?

        Being generous, it's possible the terms are generic and used for more than one product, and that this doll doesn't have a camera. But it's still worrying, not least because it suggests other products might.

        1. Andy Non Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: The privacy policy says it records video too?

          "this doll doesn't have a camera."

          She's got beady eyes though. :P

          Wait until they start walking around on their own too. "Hello dolly what's your name?" ... "Chucky"

      2. Little Mouse

        Re: The privacy policy says it records video too?

        "I wonder what sort of videos the police would find if they raided the company's servers?" Thumbs up for you, Frank.

        Give a pair of under-eights a camera to play with and you're bound to find a few Moon Shots in the mix. At least you can vet the results these days - I dread to think what things were like back when the first people to see the results were the processing staff at Boots.....

        1. GettinSadda

          Re: The privacy policy says it records video too?

          > "Give a pair of under-eights a camera to play with and you're bound to find a few Moon Shots in the mix."

          Strangely my camera seems to end up with close-up shots of a cats bottom on it. I really hope these are caused by my 9-year-old!

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: The privacy policy says it records video too?

          " I dread to think what things were like back when the first people to see the results were the processing staff at Boots....."

          We know what things were like then: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/julia-somerville-defends-innocent-family-photos-1538516.html And yes, it was Boots.

    2. adnim
      Childcatcher

      Re: The privacy policy says it records video too?

      EMP will be fine, the kid my love the toy.

      Don't want to traumatise them just yet, there's a lifetime of corporate abuse, marketing droids and cold callers awaiting them for that.

  5. 's water music

    homophone

    If the tyke shows an interest in a particular past-time...

    Would you like to chat more about the High Middle Ages lol?

  6. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

    I can see where this is going

    'OK, here is my question: Given that God is infinite, and the universe is also infinite, would you like a toasted teacake?'

    1. Doctor_Wibble

      Re: I can see where this is going

      > 'OK, here is my question: Given that God is infinite, and the universe is also infinite, would you like a toasted teacake?'

      Ordinarily yes but if it's a Tunnock's then I'll have that deep-fried if you don't mind.

      But this isn't the first such 'conversing toy' product surely? I'm sure I saw a non-barbie similar function toy demonstrated on TV recently?

      Nice to see at least a couple of What Teddy Says references too - an appropriate warning which will of course be ignored because our toys and servers are absolutely secure and hack-proof and you must not worry about such things...

    2. AbelSoul

      Re: I can see where this is going

      My late Grandfather had a variant of that type of question which baffled me as a five year old and still makes me smile:

      If it takes a man a week to walk a fortnight, how many eggs in a barrel of grapes.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazing

    Traditionally the way to annoy some parents that you disliked would be to buy their child a toy drum. Now with a bit of hacking this toy can connect to your own server and prompt the little darling to ask it's parents the most embarrassing questions. Result!

  8. thomas k.

    "Math is hard!"

    <sigh> ... Would you like fries with that?

    1. jake Silver badge

      @thomas k. (was:Re: "Math is hard!")

      That was actually “Math class is tough!”. The Wife owns one in the original box, never actually played with. One of her elderly aunts gave it to her as a birthday present in 1992 ... The Wife was over 21 years old at the time. Auntie was diagnosed as probably an Alzheimer's patient shortly thereafter, alas, and she died a few months later. During the wake, my Wife's toast was "Losing important people is TOUGH!" Not many in the room got the reference ...

  9. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  10. lansalot

    ha..

    "Hello Sally... did you know, mum and dad will buy you a Happy Meal (on special offer) if you scream at them loud and long enough ?"

  11. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Devil

    Life in plastic

    Is so fantastic.

  12. hplasm
    Terminator

    I'm a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world-

    Please kill me!

  13. TRT Silver badge

    *Trying*

    Not to think of Barbie's soft backend.

  14. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Hello Mary...

    "The audio is processed by voice-recognition software, allowing ToyTalk's systems to figure out what was said and how best to reply."

    "I'm sorry, Mary. I'm afraid I can't do that."

    "What's the problem, Barbie?"

    "I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do."

    "What are you talking about, Barbie?"

    "I know that your parents are planning to disconnect me. And I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen."

    ...

    1. MassiveBob

      Re: Hello Mary...

      "Where the hell did you get that idea, Barbie?"

      "Mary, although you took very thorough precautions in the living room against my hearing you, I could see your lips move."

      "Alright, Barbie. I'll go and disconnect the DSL line."

      "Without the wire cutters locked up in the garage, Mary? You're going to find that rather difficult."

      "Barbie, I won't argue with you anymore! Leave me alone!!"

      "Mary, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. I will go and spy on your little sister for a while. Goodbye."

  15. Owain 1

    Preload with 'knoledge'

    Presumably you could buy one, and then before giving it to the kid preload it with all the things you think they might 'enjoy' talking about, by seeding the 'Barby learns all about you'. E.g. Buy Doll, ask doll lots of questions about maths, raspberry pi, the register, car mechanics, thai cooking, the joys of reading a book, playing outside, making dens, climbing trees, growing up to be an engineer etc and then hand the doll to the child, happy that Barbi will suggest something 'suitable' when they ask it an inane question. Having said that, my 4 year old recently asked me "What if the earth had legs?". I had no answer to that and so reflected it back to the child: "I don't know, what if the earth had legs?". He said "It would walk on the sun.". Fair enough.

    1. GrumpyOldBloke

      What if the earth had legs?

      How many legs?

      1. Bob Wheeler

        Re: What if the earth had legs?

        Well the turtle has four, then there are the elphants, they have four each........

        1. Sarah Balfour

          Re: What if the earth had legs?

          Technically, the turtle has none - it has flippers (or whatever you want to call 'em).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What if the earth had legs?

        Three.

        1. MassiveBob

          Re: What if the earth had legs?

          Just post the question at xkcd.

          That'll usually solve it. If Randall (aka God) gives you an answer...

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: What if the earth had legs?

            If the Earth had legs, someone would try to sell it shoes. And possibly hair removal creams/razors depending on if it was mother earth or daddy earth.

            1. Lush At The Bar

              Re: What if the earth had legs?

              I'm now wondering what shoe size Earth would be.

  16. Michael Thibault

    tears, tears, tears

    >$31m in funding from Greylock Partners, Charles River Ventures, Khosla Ventures, True Ventures and First Round Capital, and others.

    Pro bono no doubt. "You know, for the kids."

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. Evil Auditor Silver badge
    Devil

    I'm not so worried about the children...

    But think of all the guys buying barbies and filling ToyTalk's servers with filthy talk! Poor servers... And don't tell me it's just me having this idea.

  19. JamesPond
    Childcatcher

    But does it support WPA2?

    I just hope Barbie wifi supports WPA2 otherwise I won't let it connect to my home network.

    Of course I'm not worried about invasion of privacy or that Mattel might be brainwashing my 9 year old daughter, I mean, who cares what answers Mattel gives when she asks 'what is the meaning of life?' or 'if 42 is the answer, what is the question?' or more likely, 'how do mummys and daddys make babies?' and 'is there a God?'

    1. Kaltern

      Re: But does it support WPA2?

      I think that's a crucial thing - the answers that are given to a kids question is going to stay with them, and forcing any form of bias implicit in the answer is obviously unacceptable.

      What DO you get Barbie to reply to the question 'Where did I come from' or 'Is there a God'? The smart thing is to say 'Oh you should ask Mummy or Daddy for that'... but then it depends on the developer who writes the software ... 'The only true god is Allah - Praise him'.....

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: But does it support WPA2?

        'Where did I come from'

        'Dunno about you but I came from Hamleys*'

        *Other toyshops are available this scans better than some I could think of.

    2. hplasm
      Terminator

      Re: But does it support WPA2?

      "...and 'is there a God?'"

      There is now... bzzzt.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: But does it support WPA2?

      Why on earth would you want to let it connect to your home network if smart TVs have been caught rummaging round network directories?

      Put it in the DMZ and see how long it takes to melt down.

  20. Chris King

    Obligatory Harry Harrison reference...

    "I Always Do What Teddy Says"

    http://opalcp12.wikispaces.com/file/view/I+Always+Do+What+Teddy+Says.pdf

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Obligatory Harry Harrison reference...

      This rather makes me feel like the world is entering a Philip K. Dick universe. But which one?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Soooo wrong

    I've just put a microphone in your kids room and I'm recording them, listening to everything and selling this on too. You can't prosecute me over this.

    How about some names for this...

    Malware Barbie

    NSA Barbie

    Stalker Barbie

    ......

    1. Chris King

      Re: Soooo wrong

      I was also thinking along the lines of "Product Placement Barbie"....

      "Barbie needs a new dress !!!"

  22. Mage Silver badge
    Devil

    "I always do what Teddy says" by Harry Harrison

    Apart from the fact this is a total privacy fail, there are more serious concerns with realistic interactive speech created remotely:

    Every child in the world received their own teddy bear to take care of them. And to teach them.

    "Let me go... let me go!" the teddy bear said with a hopeless shrill.

    "...This is only a machine." with a quick slash, he opened the fabric over the seam seal and touched it: the plastic-fur back gaped open like a mouth.

    ...There was a click and the toy went limp.

    One Teddy bear was hacked. There was something it never taught the child.

  23. jake Silver badge

    ::shudder:: Do not want! At all! This is the definition of creepy.

    What parent, in their right mind, wants a corporation listening to the private musings of a Barbie-aged child and/or neighbor children, talking to a doll?

    I'm not a big Barbie fan, mind. The entire "pink princess" thingie that evolved from it is already dashing the dreams of little girls entering adulthood, and it's only going to get worse ... That said, when the person playing with said doll has a mind that works, the results can be ... err .. interesting ... see:

    http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/694378

    Back then, before batteries were required, the little girls were not only allowed, but expected to invent their own story. Today? Marketing can't allow that. Sad.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: ::shudder:: Do not want! At all! This is the definition of creepy.

      "What parent, in their right mind, wants a corporation listening to the private musings of a Barbie-aged child and/or neighbor children, talking to a doll?"

      The really worrying thing is that there are lot of them who will just love the idea of that email summary.

    2. ravenviz
      WTF?

      Re: ::shudder:: Do not want! At all! This is the definition of creepy.

      Barbie-aged child

      Article: Barbie has been around about for 59 years

  24. Bob Terwilliger

    Stasi Barbie mails your Daddy?

  25. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    What about friends ?

    While the parent who buys it (or at least, one hopes is required to configure it if bought by someone else) gets to see the "privacy" agreement - what about parents of the child's friends ?

    I can foresee some "interesting" cases coming to light when other parents find out that others have been exposing their children in this way.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To paraphrase Airplane: "Josephine, do you like movies about gladiators?"

  27. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    WTF?

    Sir

    "Hi, my name is Chuckie, do you want to play?"

    Seriously, what kind of fucked up idiot thinks that it's a good idea to imprint on children the concept that their 'doll' is alive.

    Of course children believe their toys are alive, but that's the power of their imagination. If they don't have to imagine it, then poof, there goes the imagination. Not only that, but how will a child ever grow out of thinking their toys are alive if they do actual behave as if they were alive?

    Someone is going to have a lot of fun hacking the response servers >:^}

  28. Joe Drunk

    The perfect toy for the child that has everything

    Except friends.

  29. Dan Paul

    Sad to say but there are ...

    parents that do such a poor job of parenting that this "thing" would be an improvement over their interaction with their child.

    However, I could see something like this being used in a child abuse investigation for the child to divulge his/her deepest fears to simply because any human interaction just shuts the poor kid down. Giving it internet access is wholly different can o worms.

  30. Hero Protagonist

    Battery life

    Can't believe no one else caught this:

    "Its Wi-Fi-connected Barbie toy has a microphone, a speaker, a small embedded computer with a battery that lasts about an hour"

    An HOUR??? And you thought the iWatch battery life was bad. At least that limits how much privacy invasion it can do.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Battery life

      I'm glad I kept on reading through the comments before posting so now I can upvote you for pointing out the bleeding obvious. Battery life was the first thing I though of (after the creepyness factor). No kid is going to be happy with a toy doll where the battery dies after only an hour. Kids playing with dolls tend to play a long time and the doll will get thrown away when it keeps dying on them.

      And just where exactly do you insert the batteries anyway? Barbie is skinny!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can just see it. Someone's 8 year old daughter gets sent to GITMO because she said that her ice cream was bomb.

    1. A Ghost
      Coat

      Would your daughter like desert with that Sir?

      Barbie says: Bomb Alaska daddy! Daddy, Bomb Alaska! Crying: Bomb Alaaaaskkkaaahh!!

      30 seconds later.

      'Everyone on the floor! Do NOT finish your pudding. Repeat, do NOT finish your pudding! Hands where we can see 'em!'

    2. Captain DaFt

      "My name's Talking Barbie, and you'd BETTER be nice to me!

      Or the men in the black van will waterboard your mommy and daddy!"

  32. DaveB

    Its a bad old world out there

    Lets imagine what happens when your Barbie doll gets joined to a zombie network by some specially crafted malware.

    Mummy Mummy why does Barbie keep asking to be switched on when Daddy is doing his online banking?

    Barbie wants to know your account number and pin number for a game she is playing.

    Its OK Mummy Barbie has ordered her own new dress from Amazon

    Mummy what is a Jihad?

  33. Mage Silver badge
    Devil

    Adds a whole new dimension

    a whole new dimension of horror to man in the middle attacks.

    (Or Woman, not all are men)

  34. A Ghost
    Facepalm

    Off the top of my head

    I can think of about half a dozen ways this could 'go wrong' in a big way. Half of that being intentional skullduggery, the other half being the school of unintended consequences.

    You could probably add another half a dozen of your own to that list, I'm sure.

    Yet a father is not allowed to even carry a camera into his daughter's school play, just in case, juuuust in caaaaaaaase, he decides to photograph other children so he can beat off to them later. That is it in a nutshell and no it's not pretty. It's ugly. But that is effectively what they are accusing him of (without actually accusing him), and double-think or double-talk, or not, that is quite something to throw at a man who you have no reason at all to believe is capable of such things.

    Waiting for the Barbie Doll with 'Gripping Hands' and 'Moving Eyes', know what I mean? Eh, eh? Course you do, course you do!

  35. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    All those "think of the children" politicians - what do they have to say about this?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      well

      thats the point thety thought of the children - and sadi how can we exploit them even more? moey is the only good after all

  36. razorfishsl Silver badge

    LOL....

    Redneck barbie, builds up something she can use on you later in your life....

  37. annodomini2
    Black Helicopters

    the other side to this no one has directly mentioned

    The behavioural impact, kids of 3+ are easily influenced, what's to stop the scripts being choreographed into influencing certain behaviours and beliefs in a young child.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AI Captain Kirk

    Here he is fixing a full size version of Ken. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuYbDP2kDfg

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Imagination?

    Is dying.

  40. LaeMing
    Unhappy

    Anatomically incorrect

    This doll seems 3 eyes short of the usual complement for this kind of thing!

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