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Google patents creepy connected toys that can interact with children

A three-year-old patent filed by Google describes internet-connected toys aimed at children that could have the power to control thermostats, motorized windows and curtains, and much more.
By
May 25, 2015
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Uncovered just recently, a three-year-old patent filed by Google describes connected toys that would be able to interact with, listen and respond to users to not only entertain children, but also to control connected devices around the home. The patent creator goes by the name of Richard Wayne DeVaul, and is the “director of rapid evaluation and mad science” at Google’s experimental X labs. The patent reveals how these products would include microphones, cameras, speakers and motors, as well as a wireless connection to the internet.

Much like the “Okay, Google” hotword we have to wake up our mobile devices, these toys would also require a trigger word or phrase to wake up. According to the document, these toys would be as lifelike as possible, providing human-like interactions to the person using the device. The patent creator explains:

To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head and/or focus its gaze on the user. To express curiosity, [it] may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm.
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The end goal isn’t just for children to use these toys, though. The document suggests that the devices could be used to control other electronics in the home, such as DVD players, thermostats, motorized windows and curtains, and much more. This idea is certainly similar to what we already have with Amazon’s Echo connected speaker or even our smartphones.

Quite frankly, a lot has changed since this patent was filed back in 2012. Many folks are much more concerned about privacy nowadays, especially when it comes to our children’s privacy. Big Brother Watch told the BBC, “The privacy concerns are clear when devices have the capacity to record conversations and log activity. When those devices are aimed specifically at children, then for many this will step over the creepy line.”

Connected devices aren’t anything new, though not many companies have developed a fully kid-centric connected device that could be listening and collecting data at all times. Of course, this may be just another random patent, as well. Many of Google’s patents don’t actually make their way into consumer products, so we’ll just have to wait and see if any of these connected toys actually come into fruition.