Google wants to transform adorable fluffy teddy bears into high-tech home assistants, in what many people described as the company’s creepiest initiatives. Google believes the toys can be used as wireless remote controls for many home appliances and even argues that kids might find them cute.
However, the legal technology firm SmartUp analyzed Google’s patents and found nothing is cute about them. Quite the contrary, the firm thinks they are “one of Google’s creepiest patents yet.” And it has to be said that there is something about anthropomorphic high-tech toys that most people find scary.
Another scary thing is Richard Wayne DeVaul’s job title, the mastermind behind the creepy toys project, who works as Google’s “director of mad science”. DeVaul believes adding speakers, cameras, microphones and motors to teddy bears and stuffed rabbits could turn them into reliable high-tech home assistants.
Technically, the toys will function as a trained pet that can also perform the tasks of a remote control. A specific trigger word can be assigned to make the toys turn their head towards the speaker. According to the Google project, the toys should then be able to determine if the person is trying to make eye contact, or the word was spoken by accident.
What made many people who saw the patent feel uncomfortable is that the high-tech toys are supposed to be able to mimic human expressions. “To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head and/or focus its gaze on the user,” DeVaul explains. The inventor thinks “young children might find these forms to be attractive.” Well, adults certainly don’t.
There are some other assertions in the paper that justify DeVaul’s “mad scientist” title. For instance, he thinks interacting with anthropomorphic stuffed animals is more natural than using a remote control, a debatable assertion to say the least. The Google director imagines a home surrounded by these creatures, with several being placed in each room.
Leaving joke aside, the Google toys would be a serious breach to anyone’s privacy, since nothing would stop them from recording private conversations and activities. The fact is even more concerning since the products mostly target young children.
“Children should be able to play in private and shouldn’t have to fear this sort of passive invasion of their privacy. It is simply unnecessary,” SmartUp director Emma Carr believes. The high-tech dolls project is relatively old, dating back from 2012. Most probably, Google did not choose to follow up on DeVaul’s ideas, which means that the company also thinks that they cross the creepy line.
Image Source: theidkshow