“Hello Barbie;” A Major Breakthrough in Play


“It was probably inevitable that the so-called Internet of Things — those Web-connected thermostats and bathroom scales and coffee makers and whatnot — would beget the Internet of Toys.” 

Natasha Singer, “A Wi-Fi Barbie Doll with the Soul of Siri,The New York Times

Despite some grumbling about privacy, I predict that “Hello Barbie,” Mattel’s answer to “the internet of things,” is going to be a major breakthrough play pattern.  Why, because it taps into a child’s powerful need for an imaginary friend

I can remember talking to my imaginary friend and I bet many of you can as well.  An imaginary friend was whom we played with when no one else was around or whom we talked to when we were lonely.  In fact, I sometimes wonder if the imaginary friend never really leaves.  Maybe it is that voice that tells you to “Go with your heart; go with your gut or just go.” 

For those not familiar with Barbie's latest manifestation; "Hello Barbie" not only interacts conversationally but learns a child's interests.  The result is an imaginary friend manifested as Barbie.

It is interesting that those who criticize Mattel for lacking vision may be overlooking what could potentially be not just a new toy but also the birth of the convergence of fantasy and the physical world (should we call it phantasy?).  

Congratulations to Oren Jacob and Toy Talk who created the technology and hats off to Mattel for adapting it.  Keep an eye on “Hello Barbie,” it could be the beginning of something very important for those in the business of toys and play.

3 thoughts

  1. I find it kind of creepy, and am worried that an introverted girl who has trouble making friends might become more isolated and insulated with this doll.
    I’m still in contact with a childhood friend who had two “unseen playmates,” to quote Robert Louis Stevenson. I asked her if she remembered “Door Knob” and “Turkey.” She said “Yes, and we’re still good friends.” Somehow, I feel Door Knob and Turkey are better choices.
    Anyone remember the “Living Doll” Twilight Zone episode?

  2. It’s definitely an interesting and clever step — connecting toys to the internet of things. I appreciate that it meets the requirements of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (as noted in a separate news article).
    Unfortunately, the price point is estimated at $75, which as a parent is too high for a novelty. In our home, it would likely get broken by little brothers within a short time-frame. However, I am guessing that this price will eventually drop (as did the web and video camera Barbies). So for now, she will have to stick with friends, both real and imaginary.

  3. Agree 100% Richard. Could it be that Barbie saves Mattel ? And can action figure friends be far behind, I think you are spot on about the play pattern.

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