The Dolls Have Ears—and Algorithms

Toys loaded with the latest machine-learning capabilities undoubtedly made it onto 2015 holiday wish lists. Offerings like Hello Barbie, CogniToys Dino, and Miposaur provide an opportunity to reflect on recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI)—as well as a few challenges.What three trends do these AI-empowered toys showcase? 1. Advances in Natural Language Processing and Gesture Recognition Most of us are familiar with natural language processing and voice recognition from our interactions with technologies like Siri. Now AI is being used to reinvent how children interact and communicate with toys. Take Hello Barbie, a doll that converses, jokes, and plays games. The doll is equipped with a microphone that records and transmits speech from the child, back through Barbie’s wi-fi enabled accessories, to ToyTalk servers. Voice-recognition tools analyze the child’s comments…

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