AI for Kids: Mattel’s “Aristotle” and Its Impact on Future Generations

Language and the Machine


Mattel, an American toy company, is creating an artificially intelligent home assistant for kids and families called Aristotle. It can talk, record video, place orders, and perhaps develop the next generation of humans into better communicators.


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Aristotle will use AI, cameras, and voice recognition to help parents raise kids.

Retailing at $300, Aristotle is a WiFi connected speaker-device and voice assistant just like Google Home and Amazon Echo. Today, adults use these home and office devices to play media, ask questions, and even order products. Aristotle wants to do the same, but for kids right inside their bedroom.

It’s likely that many parents might recoil to this, but Mattel, the maker of Aristotle, is hoping the technology will enhance the lives of children and parents in a variety of ways. Aristotle is aimed to be “a nanny, friend, and tutor, intended to both soothe a newborn and help a tween with their foreign language homework. It’s an AI to help raise your child,” (via Fast Company).

Voice Assistance and AI

Even though Aristotle isn’t expected to arrive until late Q2 or early Q3 of 2017, Mattel has big plans, starting with its voice recognition technology. Upon setup, a child would read a short paragraph to Aristotle to acclimate its voice to the technology. Google Home and Alexa don’t require this, but toddlers aren’t the most articulate human specimens, so this initial step will help Aristotle learn much faster initially and over time.

Aristotle can answer questions and provide facts. It can have a conversation with kids just like a teacher or nanny would. It could even take on the personality or voice of your kid’s favorite animated movie characters (pending some potential licensing deals that Mattel could enter). Aristotle can even “talk” with colors and lights and play games.

By the end of this year, story time might rely AI, from sound effects and special voices to even telling the entire story itself while mom and dad are working late. Perhaps extreme, but certainly possible.

Video Monitoring and Image Recognition

Aristotle also comes with a camera that streams video to your mobile device, similar to a baby monitor, but much, much smarter. Within the app, parents can tell Aristotle to take certain actions after a trigger, such as automatically playing a song if their child cries for 7 minutes. Or illuminating the room with a subtle light in the morning.

With a camera comes the possibility of image or face recognition. Let’s say a 12-year old has Aristotle in his or her room, and needs to study for a test with flash cards. Users could possibly show the flash cards to the camera and study with Aristotle. Imagine a child playing with a Mattel toy, and Aristotle recognizing it. Within seconds, Aristotle could possibly play car racing sound effects as soon as a new set of Hot Wheels is opened.

Data Tracking and Product Orders

If a toddler is down to the last diaper, Aristotle will be able to inform parents and ask if they want to order a new box. This and many other data logging capabilities will come build into Aristotle’s technology. It can track sleeping patterns, how many times a song from Frozen was requested, or how much baby formula the household buys each month.

Mattel is investing quite a bit into the privacy Aristotle provides to users and homes. Despite how close it could become to a child, and how much information it gathers, Mattel says “the hardware itself puts 256bit encryption on all transmissions to Aristotle’s servers—and the way data is handled internally is both COPAA and HIPAA compliant,” (via Fast Company.

Kids Growing Up with AI

Kids today can pick up an iPhone or tablet and start swiping away with ease. Tapping and pinching and understanding UI in the technology. They grew up with it. It’s “natural” to them. In the next decade or two, the same will happen with kids and artificial intelligence and voice recognitions. In fact, it will likely change the way humans communicate, both to each other and to machines.

Perhaps our manners and politeness will evolve. Machines can teach us (and thanks to Aristotle, from a very young age) to say “please” and “thank you” more, to be more present, and to use the tools and technology around us with greater accuracy and success. Today, there’s an awkwardness of attaching ourselves to our phones, even at the dinner table with loved ones. Technology and the future of communications might develop humans to converse more with our voice and mind instead of our fingers.

In 2017, Social Media Week is exploring this through a year-long global theme, “Language and the Machine: Algorithms and the Future of Communication.” Throughout the year we will explore the future, where new elements of language and forms of communication will continue to evolve.

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