Connected toys collect and use data for interactive experiences. While they’re fun for kids, lawmakers and academic researchers have raised questions about privacy.
Some of the most coveted toys from the 2019 holiday season were connected dolls, robots and coding kits.
Twenty-five years ago, animatronic Teddy Ruxpin bears sang, told stories and even blinked. Priced at $69.99 (roughly $167.00 in 2020 dollars), the dolls had audio cassette decks built into their backs; specially-formatted tapes controlled the servo motors for Teddy’s eyes and mouth, and also played audio recordings. For about the same price today, Cozmo is a small, self-aware, A.I.-powered robot with a base personality, and the more you play with him, the more that personality evolves.
Made by San Francisco-based company Anki, the toy expresses anger when he loses a contest, and his eyes turn into upside-down U’s to show joy. Facial recognition allows it to remember faces and call people by their names. Sony’s Aibo is a lifelike robotic dog that responds to touch—scratch his neck and his tail will start wagging. You can teach him tricks, like fetching a ball and giving a high-five. Aibo also recognizes his owners using computer vision technology.
The upcoming generation of connected toys will use more data and will include even more personalization. Advancements in computer vision, voice and sound recognition, and spatial computing will result in richer, more interactive experiences. As connected toys evolve, they will rely less on mobile devices and will instead connect to the cloud. This means increased bandwidth needs—and, very likely, new privacy concerns.
As connected toys become more affordable, kids might prefer to play with devices rather than simply watch content on them. This could start to negatively impact the use of tablets and apps.
Anki, Bandai Namco Holdings, Fisher-Price, Kano, Lego, Mattel, Meccano, Mibro, SoapBox Labs, Sony, Spin Master, Sphero, Toymail, UBTECH, WowWee, Wonder Workshop.
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