Mattel ready to introduce Creepy Barbie

Creepy Barbie
Click to enlarge

Child advocates want toymaker Mattel to pull the plug on a new interactive Barbie doll that records children’s voices and uploads them to a cloud server.

The Hello Barbie doll – expected to arrive in stores this fall – uses WiFi to hold two-way conversations by “listening” to a child’s words and responding appropriately.

In a videotaped demonstration of the doll at the New York Toy Fair last month, a saleswoman chatted with Barbie about New York City. “I love New York, don’t you?” Barbie gushes. “Tell me, what’s your favorite part about the city?”

When the saleswoman says she enjoys Italian restaurants, Barbie says, “You have to take me to try it!”

Susan Linn, executive director of the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, says the doll is “creepy” and “dangerous.” The group is calling on Mattel to stop all production and marketing of Hello Barbie…

Mattel says Hello Barbie was developed in response to the wishes of girls from around the world, whose top request was to be able to have a conversation with Barbie.

Hello Barbie conforms to government standards and employs safeguards to protect children’s data from access by “unauthorized users,” Mattel said in a statement.

The last thing I have any confidence in is United States government standards about creepiness and privacy.

If you claim it, they will come. Man visits Virgin Mary every day!


“Not much. How about you?”

Here’s a guy who has a rolling conversation with the Virgin Mary every day. And– big surprise– he likes to have an audience present.

Judging from his demeanor while he is doing this, it must be pretty exciting. I imagine it goes something like this:

Guy: “How are you doing today?”
VM: “Fine. How about you?”
Guy: “Fine. How’s the Father?”
VM: “He’s fine.”
Guy: “Good. How’s Jesus?”
VM: “Fine.”
Guy: “OK.. well.. good seeing you again.”

You can watch the video here: [The exciting BBC report and video]

Meet the Eyeborg

Rob Spence, a Toronto-based film-maker, lost his right eye in a shooting accident on his grandfather’s farm when he was a teenager. Now 36, he decided some years ago to build a miniature camera that could be fitted inside his false eye. A prototype was completed last year, and was named by Time magazine as one of the best inventions of 2009. He calls himself “the Eyeborg guy”.

The eye contains a wireless video camera that runs on a tiny three-volt battery. It is not connected to his brain, and has not restored his vision. Instead it records everything that he sees. More than that, it contains a wireless transmitter, which allows him to transmit what he is seeing in real time to a computer.

The current model is low resolution, and the transmitter is weak, meaning that Mr Spence has to hold a receiving antenna to his cheek to get a full signal. But a new higher-resolution model, complete with stronger transmitter and a booster on the receiver, is in the works. He says: “Unlike you humans, I can continue to upgrade…”

As a film-maker, Mr Spence wants to use the camera to record “truer” conversations than would be possible with a handheld camera. “When you bring a camera, people change,” he says. “I wouldn’t be disarming at all. I would just be some dude. It’s a much truer conversation.”

His subjects would only become aware that they were being filmed after the conversation was over. Then he would give them a chance to sign, or not sign, a release form permitting him to use the footage.

He says: “There’s ethical issues with that, but I am a filmmaker. “If you’re averse to it, that’s fine, don’t sign the release form. I won’t put you in the documentary.”

The ethics may turn out to be bullshit; but, the documentary might be fun. Maybe even useful?

Less small talk and more substantive conversations = Happiness

Is a happy life filled with trivial chatter or reflective and profound conversations? Psychological scientists…investigated whether happy and unhappy people differ in the types of conversations they tend to engage in.

Volunteers wore an unobtrusive recording device called the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) over four days. This device periodically records snippets of sounds as participants go about their lives. For this experiment, the EAR sampled 30 seconds of sounds every 12.5 minutes yielding a total of more than 20,000 recordings. Researchers then listened to the recordings and identified the conversations as trivial small talk or substantive discussions. In addition, the volunteers completed personality and well-being assessments.

As reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, analysis of the recordings revealed some very interesting findings. Greater well-being was related to spending less time alone and more time talking to others: The happiest participants spent 25% less time alone and 70% more time talking than the unhappiest participants.

In addition to the difference in the amount of social interactions happy and unhappy people had, there was also a difference in the types of conversations they took part in: The happiest participants had twice as many substantive conversations and one third as much small talk as the unhappiest participants.

These findings suggest that the happy life is social and conversationally deep rather than solitary and superficial. The researchers surmise that — though the current findings cannot identify the causal direction — deep conversations may have the potential to make people happier. They note, “Just as self-disclosure can instill a sense of intimacy in a relationship, deep conversations may instill a sense of meaning in the interaction partners.”

I hope the time I spend talking online to you lot counts. Otherwise it’s just me and the dogs until my wife gets home from work.