Interactive toys have certainly come a long way since kids had to use actual imagination to party with their stuffed friends. The evolution of toys as electronic interactive BFFs can be traced from Teddy Ruxpin, Tamagotchi, and Furbies all the way to Supertoy Teddy, the newest Kickstarter toy darling.
People go totally nuts for these toys, as is evident by the recent resurrection of the Furby this past holiday season and my own personal seven-year-old jealousy over my friend’s Teddy Ruxpin. Some find them creepy, but childhood can be a beautifully lonely place sometimes, and a bit of AI can make kids feel a little more comfy with their solitude.
Without delving too far into the twisted psychology behind wanting toys that can literally carry on a conversation with us, there’s also the cool factor. A kid with a semi-intelligent naturally talking teddy bear that he customized himself? Yeah, my kid self wants to hang out at that kid’s house.
Supertoy Robotics, the creators of the Siri-style downloadable conversation app Jeannie, explain the compulsion behind the creation of a talking teddy:
“We made it for fun. We made it because nobody had done it before. We made it because we are geeks who love robotics and wanted to turn science fiction in films into reality in your home. We made it because we could.”
Judging by the accent, It’s pretty obvious that the main “science fiction film” they’re referring to is the not-for-kids movie Ted, but I suppose it could be the movie A.I. too. On the Kickstarter page, it mentions that there will be four different settings for Superteddy’s voice: child, teenager, adult, and role play.
The company plans to roll out costumes to accompany the various role play voices Superteddy will come with, and to start the game, kids will need to say something like “let’s play cowboys” and the bear will respond with “Howdy pardner” and the like.
In order to operate the Siri-like intelligence, you’ll need a smartphone. You download the app, plug your phone in, tuck it into a pocket on Superteddy’s backside, and zip it up.
Out of the box, Superteddy speaks 30 languages, his mouth moving as he speaks each one. As you converse with the bear, he’ll learn about your likes and dislikes and become more intelligent as time goes on. He even mimics human emotion in his voice inflection, and is “aware and autonomous.”
If you’re thinking, “hey – I’ve seen this movie, and the humans never win,” well, as long as you donate a dollar to the Kickstarter, you’ll be safe. As the Kickstarter page claims:
“For $1 your name will live forever. Imagine in the future when Robots take over the world and want to know WHO were their creators? They will know it was YOU. Then with their futuristic technology they’ll create a clone of you from your DNA. You will live forever.”
As of this writing, the Kickstarter campaign has 20 days left of funding, but has already far exceeded its goal, serving as proof that people are really enamored (or really terrified) of advances in A.I. tech. If you wanna check it out, here’s the page.