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People Are Really Freaking Out Over This Barbie Doll That Talks To You

And not just because it's kind of weird.

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Because the thing about Hello Barbie is, you can have a conversation with her. / Via

Now obviously the kind of simple responses to keywords you're seeing in these first two clips aren't too terrifying. / Via

But this is what's scary. As you can hear in this clip, she actually LEARNS from the things you say to her.

It's caused a whole bunch of people to flip out.

And once you hear how it works, you'll probably see why.

Hello Barbie connects to your Wi-Fi. The toy records voices on a microphone. Those recordings are encoded, encrypted and then sent to the servers of Toytalk, the company that makes the firm. Those servers process the recordings and selects one of Barbie's pre-recorded scripts with which to reply.

This kind of thing is nothing new: Think, for example, about how Siri works. But unsurprisingly the idea of a child's words being recorded and analysed has some people up in arms.

As Gizmodo points out, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is at the forefront of the campaign to stop this doll before it happens.

In a blog on the campaign group's site, Angela Campbell, a law professor at Georgetown University raises concerns about how a child's interests and family could "be of great value to advertisers and be used to market unfairly to children." A paediatrician also expresses concern about the fact that computer algorithms could end up replacing "the nuanced responsiveness of caring people interacting with one another."

However, Toytalk, the makers of the software, told Gizmodo: "ToyTalk and Mattel [the makers of the doll] will only use the conversations recorded through Hello Barbie to operate and improve our products, to develop better speech recognition for children, and to improve the natural language processing of children's speech."

As Gizmodo goes on to point out, despite the fact the software is pretty "innocuous" (because it doesn't query the open web), it's emblematic of an increasing number of debates about voice recognition software.

Earlier this year there was a furore about Samsung Smart TV's voice recognition feature. The company had to reassure potential customers that its software wasn't sold to third parties.

The truth is, Hello Barbie is just the beginning.

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