Google Now? More like Google Past, right? Hello Barbie is taking natural speech recognition into the land of toys, giving Barbie fans of all ages a new and much more real best friend.
Hello Barbie adopts the personality that has been developed through the massive amount of animated shorts, movies and other multimedia Barbie appearances, but we’re well past the days of preloaded phrases. This time, Barbie can understand natural speech and respond to it, while learning the preferences of each of her big-sized friends. If that sounds like Cortana or Siri, well, yeah, it’s the same basic idea. Hello Barbie just won’t be able to set reminders or give you directions to Burger King, but hey, she’s Wi-Fi connected and will receive continuous updates, so let’s not put it out of the realm of possibility yet.
Those updates will be to the software that powers Hello Barbie, so kids and adults alike won’t have to worry about keeping her current. Everything will take place behind the scenes, because that software is stored on a cloud server, not on Barbie herself—Barbie doesn’t have Intel inside yet. We’re probably not going to put that out of the realm of possibility at this point, either. Those updates could include new features in the future, but for the most part, they’ll be for keeping Barbie current on trends, news and pop culture references. So, hopefully, we won’t have any kids in 2018 chiding Hello Barbie for being so 2015.
Besides carrying on a conversation, Hello Barbie can play games and tell jokes and stories. Throughout it all, Barbie will be picking up on likes and dislikes, remembering to use what she’s learned in future conversations. That’s right—not only can Barbie now be your best friend, she’s probably a better listener than most of your real friends, too!
Sounds ambitious for Barbie, but Barbie’s an ambitious woman. The demo we saw at the North American International Toy Fair over the weekend looked pretty promising, with Barbie responding to everything that was said to her without any errant responses. She didn’t ask us to repeat ourselves, either—again, she’s a pretty good listener. There’s a little button on Hello Barbie that you press to let her know you’re talking to her, so she won’t pick up background discussions, much like how you would activate Siri, Google Now or Cortana. While we were impressed with the demo, we’d also guess that there will be some hitches along the way, so it’s reassuring to know that there’s a team committed to continually working on Hello Barbie’s software.
But Mattel, don’t stop here! All the pieces are in place for a licensing deal that lets us use Barbie as our phone’s personal assistant, and I’m not sure there’s any good reason for that not to happen. Sorry Siri, it’s nothing personal.