Mattel's Aristotle will be the "big brother" your kid never had
Touted as an Amazon Echo for kids, Mattel recently unveiled Aristotle, a voice-activated smart assistant designed to interact with your child at all stages of their development. Aristotle is ostensibly similar to a standard Amazon Echo, but Mattel has bundled in a companion Wi-Fi camera and developed a dedicated AI system that can not only watch over your child, but respond to their direct queries.
For new parents, Aristotle can oversee your baby as they sleep, triggering lights and playing a calming lullaby when it detects crying. The system can also track feeding patterns and monitor diaper changes, automatically ordering more supplies when stocks are running low. But Mattel is positioning Aristotle as much more than merely a smart baby monitor.
The system is designed to grow and evolve as your child moves through adolescence. Developed in partnership with Qualcomm, which provides the device's processor, and Microsoft, which provides Microsoft Cognitive Services and Cortana Intelligence systems, Aristotle draws on three distinct AI engines to learn your toddler's voice patterns and nurture a one-on-one relationship built on sing-alongs, playing games, and undertaking educational lessons.
Mattel is also aware of the recent criticisms that this kind of voice-controlled AI technology could normalize rude and abrupt communication habits. One San Francisco writer amusingly described his fear that Amazon's Echo device was turning his daughter into "a raging asshole" through the system's absolute tolerance of bad manners and abrupt aggressive commands. To counter this, and help teach children more polite communication, Aristotle can be set to only positively respond to commands that include "please."
The comprehensiveness of Aristotle's surveillance of your growing child inevitably raises some concerns over security and privacy, after all, this is a system that logs your child's behaviour and has object recognition AI designed to react when certain toys are played with. Mattel has attempted to address these concerns releasing an additional statement stressing, "Not only is the new Aristotle by nabi system COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) compliant, and utilizes 256-bit encryption to keep your video stream secure, but it is also HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) compliant.
Mattel also notes that all the information Aristotle generates will be cached locally and only accessed through authorized devices that are paired in close proximity to the central hub. Of course, the system will also be working with numerous third-party developers building a series of connected toys and apps so there's a very fine line to tread in terms of how this valuable information could potentially be commercialized. As it stands, Aristotle is a fascinating leap forward for voice-activated AI assistants into a child's developmental sphere.
Aristotle is set for release in June and will retail for US$300