Mattel’s new doll, nicknamed “Stasi Barbie”

Article published on 03/10/2015 - New technologies - Leisures

Recently presented in Germany, the prototype of the future Hello Barbie is already controversial. Nicknamed “Stasi Barbie”, Mattel’s new connected doll could soon know more about children than their own parents.

What are the limits to give to connected objects in everyday life? Whilst it is still difficult to answer this question, the toy manufacturer, Mattel, has just defined some characteristics in its sector. Having recently presented its future doll, named Hello Barbie, in Germany, the company finds itself faced with a controversy concerning the connectivity properties of its prototype.

Nicknamed “Stasi Barbie”, in reference to the ex-RDA intelligence services, the doll wanted to keep up with the times and become a connected object in its own right. Thus, it has a microphone and voice recognition system to respond to the children. Nothing dangerous up to there, as this type of system is integrated into many interactive games. However, Mattel has given its doll an artificial intelligence similar to Siri, developed for Apple products. As noted in the article in the German newspaper, Stern, Hello Barbie doesn’t only talk to the children, it records them constantly.

Optimise Barbie and sales

Once the doll recognises a familiar voice, it starts recording and sends the data, via its Wi-fi connection to Mattel’s servers. This data collection is presented by the company as a way for Barbie to better know the child playing with her, to personalise its responses and to constantly evolve. She remembers what has been said and provides appropriate responses. In the video above, the presenter asks the doll what she could do later.  Hello Barbie answers:

"Well, you told me you like being on a stage. So, maybe a dancer or a politician. Or what about a dancing politician ? I always say, anything is possible".

But behind this personalisation of the relationship between Barbie and the child, other uses for the constantly collected data are possible. The child’s profile created from the information confided or said to the doll is a gold mine for Mattel. By having Hello Barbies in numerous households, the company would have a database to better know its young clients and create new models inspired by the desires of consumers under 10 years of age. For the moment, no release date has been announced by the American company, if it maintains its production.

*Photo from the video

Article written by Nawal Lyamini
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