Google’s ‘Chucky’ teddy bear to control the home
Google’s boffins have floated the idea of making internet-connected teddy bears that will have the ability to control gadgets and devices in the home.
The robot would be an “anthropomorphic device” which could take the form a “doll or toy that resembles a human, an animal, a mythical creature or an inanimate object”, according to a patent granted to the U.S. search giant last week.
A camera and microphone would be installed in the head of the toy, which could move to maintain eye contact with the user – much like the popular horror film doll “Chucky”. A user could signal a command by speaking or moving their hands.
“In response to accepting the command, the anthropomorphic device may make an audio (e.g., spoken phrase or particular sound) or non-audio (e.g., a gesture and/or another visual signal) acknowledgement to the user,” the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filing said.
Connected to the “Internet of things” via the wifi, the dear could then control devices including TVs, PCs and music systems as well as the increasing number of smart home appliances such as kettles or the heating.
Google’s patent explains that the device may be configured to accept voice commands from a limited number of users – such as only those living in the house – and the camera could be used to recognize a user’s face.
The patent was originally filed in February 2012 and even though it was granted last week, does not mean that this product will see the light of day.
Still, the plans have worried privacy campaigners who are concerned about the use of data gathered by Google.
“If this was sold it would be something to cause a certain sense of concern about the creepiness of the product for families,” Renate Samson, spokesperson for privacy group Big Brother Watch, told CNBC by phone.
“Children’s toys should enable children to play in private and not be watched. It’s important that privacy and security by design is taken into consideration and is not an afterthought particularly when dealing with children.”
Google explains that taking on the form of a toy will be “more natural than interacting with traditional types of user interfaces”.
Google is not alone in internet-connected toy ambitions. Earlier this year, toy maker Mattel said it was developing a Barbie that was connected to the internet and can hold conversations with children. Another company called Elemental Path has designed to interact and adapt to children. Google was also granted another patent last month for personalities that can be downloaded for a robot.