Toymaker drops its Aristotle connected kids room device built in tandem with Microsoft and Qualcomm.
In a market already quickly filling with home virtual assistants like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple’s newest version, HomePod, Mattel tried to get in on the market share with a unique twist on the always-listening remote access device: an AI-enabled virtual assistant for children that acted as both playmate and babysitter.
Mattel’s device was introduced at CES in Las Vegas, and touted as an all-in-one. Part Alexa, the device – called Aristotle – would order baby products on command and look for deals and specials on diapers or other supplies. However, part Big Brother, it would also act as a home security device with embedded camera and even read stories or sing songs to the baby.
After Mattel replaced its Chief Technology Officer in July 2017, Aristotle got put back on the shelf. Apparently, new CTO Sven Gerjets wasn’t too comfortable with the possibility of even one parent going out and leaving the baby home, watching it via camera feed to a smartphone while trusting the device to respond to the baby’s cries.
Plus, it’s just creepy. “Aristotle, sing the baby a song,” just hits too close to a dystopian future in which robot caregivers raise the young.
This is not Mattel’s first brush with technology backlash involving children, unfortunately. In 2015, reports of hacking an interactive Barbie left parents somewhat fearful for their little ones. With access to not just the account holder’s information but also the stored audio files and the doll’s microphone, hackers in theory had access to the young users’ voices and the ability to respond as the doll.
“The world of tomorrow is today!” or so sci-fi movies keep telling us. Despite the severe lack of jetpacks and flying cars in our lives, no one can argue that technology is not improving life on an hourly basis for most consumers. However, you can have too much of a good thing, as Mattel has discovered the hard way.
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