One of the world’s largest toy maker, Mattel, is taking their toys a notch higher as they have just unveiled their latest brainchild. An electronic assistant that comes with a microphone, speaker, and camera made especially for kids. ‘Aristotle’ as Mattel names it, was announced during the Consumer Electronic show that happened in Las Vegas and is set to come out on June.
Aristotle and Alexa
Mattel’s Aristotle has been said to be the counterpart for children of Amazon’s Alexa. While Alexa is a good virtual assistant, it fails in the area of understanding children. And this is the gap that Aristotle would like to bridge.
Aristotle is set to interact and play with your child and even help parents in their needs. This child-focused wi-fi speaker would look after your child, much like an electronic nanny. If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night and starts to cry, Aristotle can be set up to produce a light show and play a lullaby in order to put the baby back to sleep. It can also log in notes that parents usually try to track, such as feedings or diaper changes. Parents can do this via smartphone app or voice command.
Contrary to what others might think, Aristotle is compatible, rather than competitive to Alexa. In Aristotle’s ‘parent mode’, parents can talk to Alexa through Mattel’s speakers by simply calling out Alexa’s name at the beginning of the sentence rather than calling Aristotle. In ‘child mode’, Alexa’s personality is disabled and the child could talk exclusively to Aristotle. This way, parents wouldn’t have to worry about their children asking the virtual assistant to order something online in their absence.
A toy that ‘grows with you’
With Mattel’s smart assistant costing $300, you would probably want this ‘toy’ to be useful for as long as it could be. And Mattel tried to address just that. Aristotle isn’t just a toy your kids would outgrow, this is a buddy that grows with you. “We tried to solve the fundamental problem of most baby products, which is they don’t grow with you. So we spent a lot of time investing on how it would age.” says Robb Fujioka, senior vice president, chief products officer at Mattel.
In an interview in ‘Good Morning America’, David Pogue, tech critic for Yahoo Finance, describes some of the ways Aristotle can do just that. It was earlier mentioned that Aristotle can try and help put a baby back to sleep. When the baby becomes a toddler, the toddler can show Aristotle a flash card through its camera and it can identify what’s on the flash card. In addition to that, Fujioka also mentions that it can use object recognition on toys that don’t include special electronics. And by the time, the child turns into a tween, Aristotle can be a study buddy and help the child do homework or answer questions.
Issues and Concerns
Having a virtual assistant, that even comes with a camera, in the hands of a child could lead to some privacy issues, and parents are already speaking out their concerns. According to Mattel “Keeping families safe and their data private is of utmost importance to Mattel and we have invested much of our time and research into this aspect of Aristotle”. As we know about conversations with virtual assistants, your questions are usually transmitted to the mothership companies to be processed by their computers and transmitted back to you. In the case of Aristotle, Mattel insists that these conversations are encrypted on both ends and can’t be hacked. As for the camera, it has a link to the parent’s phone and is never transmitted online and wouldn’t get sent out of the house.
Other concern we are having, is the question how much tech is too much tech when it comes to parenting. As long as Aristotle doesn’t provide significant benefits, isn’t it better to raise your kids with parents, not machines with cameras and mics, around?
On a side note
Even before Aristotle’s release on June, a seeming competitor is also set to come out. Vai Kai will be releasing ‘Avakai’, a wooden doll that is also intuitive and connected. Like Aristotle, Avakai is also programmed to grow with your kids as their behaviors can be expanded and updated through a smartphone app. Avakais come in twins which enables communication even in a distance. Also, Avakai is like an authentic playmate in a way that it can laugh, roar, ‘whoop’, and even sing. It can even sneeze and snore and its heartbeat can go up and down. On the overall, much like Aristotle, Avakai is designed to be your kid’s buddy as s/he grows.
As of this writing, many of the questions for Aristotle’s abilities remain unanswered. As tech bloggers speculate on its possibilities, we would have to wait until June to really know how smart Aristotle would be.
Rebecca and Andrzej