“‘Yay, you’re here!’ Barbie said eagerly. ‘This is so exciting. What’s your name?’…’I just know we’re going to be great friends.’” With a simple greeting, Hello Barbie has infiltrated your child’s life. Each time your child wishes to engage, they simply press on Barbie’s belt buckle and speak. Unlike other talking toys, the button on Barbie’s belt is not to play one of the pre-recorded statements that are installed in the toy. Instead, the button is used to record and transmit what your child says to an online storage cloud where it will be reviewed and used to create an appropriate response. As a playmate, Hello Barbie utilizes Internet connectivity and other advanced technologies including speech recognition to deliver a truly interactive, responsive experience for your child.
Despite Hello Barbie’s simplistic and petite appearance, the interior of the doll contains an intricate and advanced hardware system including an integrated circuit board with a “Wi-Fi module, flash memory, audio codec,” and a processing unit. These features allow Barbie to engage in a two-way conversation, play games, and even tell jokes. To make this possible, Mattel collaborated with ToyTalk, the entertainment and technology company that developed the speech recognition and progressive learning technologies for Hello Barbie. ToyTalk is the brains behind the operation, providing Hello Barbie with a database of 8,000 lines of dialogue and maintaining the secured cloud-based data servers, which helps Barbie “remember” previous conversations with a child. ToyTalk remains heavily involved with Hello Barbie after she has entered into your child’s life. The company monitors the conversations between Barbie and your child to make Barbie more realistic and ultimately your child’s best friend.
Corinne Moini, Protecting Privacy in the Era of Smart Toys: Does Hello Barbie Have a Duty to Report, 25 Cath. U. J. L. & Tech (2017).