In the not-so-distant future, you could walk in on a teddy bear reading a bedtime story to your child. And it wouldn’t be just any story – it’d be a saga tailored to everything the toy knows about your child, including likes, dislikes and even their deepest secrets.
In the 1980s and ’90s, Teddy Ruxpin and Furbys were creepy, but they have nothing on the fast-growing world of artificial intelligence-powered smart toys coming soon.
We’re bound to see a slew of AI ChatGPT-powered toys hitting the scene this holiday season. When the kids start asking for them, you’ll already know it’s not all fun and games.
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Not your average stuffed animal
Imagine a toy that learns everything about your child. Your kid can hold entire conversations with the toy, and it will respond in complete sentences. The more your child speaks to the toy, the more “intelligent” it becomes.
This is what VTech CEO and toymaker Allan Wong is betting the company’s future on a line of AI teddy bears. He says the interactive plushies will offer parents an alternative to traditional bedtime story rituals.
These AI-powered bears would use chatbot-style technology to create customized tales. They can talk a child down from a temper tantrum, entertain them and teach them lessons. No doubt, your child will form a real bond with this toy.
Going way beyond basic information, I’m willing to bet these toys may also collect school and home locations and sensitive data about Mom and Dad.
While the concept is innovative, the same privacy concerns that plague adult smart devices apply to these new kiddie gadgets. Whenever a toy has recording capabilities, the data is often collected, stored and shared with third-party buyers.
No, it’s not your imagination. There are more hackers than ever coming after your info.Here’s why.
Remember the Hello Barbie?
In 2015, this Wi-Fi-enabled doll was the precursor to AI toys. It recorded, collected and saved conversations. The significant invasion of privacy and security risk was one thing.
But there were also concerns about how the recorded data could be used for marketing purposes. Its maker, Mattel, was sued and made changes to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
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Keeping play private
It’s impractical to try to avoid AI toys altogether, as they’re quickly becoming a household norm. But how can you make sure you and your family are safe?
◾ Disable things like cameras and chat functionalities, if possible.
◾ Enable any and all parental controls on the toys.
◾ Make sure there’s a way to reset the toy to erase its capabilities and memory. Take those steps if your child stops using it.
Still, I’d try to convince your kid there’s something cooler than an AI toy. Maybe it’s not so bad stepping on Legos all the time.
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