Barbie has always moved with the times, adapting to fashion and themes throughout her 56-year-old lifespan and now she is to become interactive and internet connected as Mattel plans to introduce Hello Barbie, a doll that can talk to children and respond to their questions.
The Barbie franchise has embraced technology before, with former versions featuring digital dresses, cameras and printable hair extensions. However, Hello Barbie will be the first in the series to be able to talk to kids directly and will learn and expand the more she hears back.
The technology to be used is from ToyTalk, a company already specialising in iPad apps and run by ex-Pixar tech officer Oren Jacob. Its speech recognition software will be employed in the doll and pre-set conversations will be written based on what is already known about Barbie's fans.
She will be given branching dialogue based on the things kids are most likely to say and ask, and as she is internet connected, the scriptwriters will be able to draw on additional conversations had with the doll after purchase. Hello Barbie can then be updated with new phrases at a later date.
"We'll take our honest best guess at that and then see what comes back, and then that will change and evolve over time as those conversations happen between individual children and Barbie dolls," said Jacob to Fast Company.
For parents worried about security, the final doll will only be able to listen when a button is depressed - her belt buckle on the prototype model shown at the New York Toy Fair at the weekend.
It is expected that Hello Barbie will be available in time for the Christmas toy bun fight.