Fresh Ideas: Artificial intelligence in dolls and drones

Barbie, the doll with “too much of a figure,” as one mother diplomatically phrased it in a complaint to Mattel, the toy maker, back in the 1950s before Barbie was ever introduced to the public, has been undergoing a makeover that’s far more than skin deep. James Vlahos, in “Artificially Yours,” published in The New York Times Magazine’s Sept. 20 issue, describes in depth and detail the development of artificially “intelligent” Hello Barbie. Despite the fact Mattel and ToyTalk portray Hello Barbie as a “perfect friend” more than a “doll,” manufacturing toys is, after all, a business, and sales of Barbie products have slipped from $1.3 billion in 2011 to “only” $1 billion this past year. What distinguishes Hello Barbie from other toys that use hidden record players or conversational…

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