What’s the name of your teddy bear? Ted? That’s the name of a teddy bear in a 2012 movie about this guy John whose best friend is his teddy bear – Ted. The plot is something like this, “In 1985, John Bennett is a lonely child who dearly wished for his new Christmas gift, a large teddy bear named Ted, to come to life to be his friend. The wish coincides with a falling star and Ted becomes a fully mobile sentient being. John’s parents got over the shock, word of the miracle spread and Ted was briefly a celebrity” and Ted becomes John’s best friend.
Google thinks that the movie Ted is so cool so you too should be given the miraculous opportunity to talk to your toys. Google has published a patent that describes how home owners will be able to talk to their Internet connected toys to ask them to do one or two things, like request them to open the fridge or change the TV channel. For example, if you will want to change your TV channel, all you will have to do is to ask Ted, “Hi Ted, please change that channel to SS 3?” and Ted would turn the head to listen to you, probably nod, then silently or through whatever action change for you the TV channel.
Will Google actually make Internet connected toys? A spokeswoman for Google says that you shouldn’t be so optimistic,
“We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with,” she said.
“Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications,” she added.
The Internet connected toys, if they see the light of the day, will have microphones, speakers, cameras and motors as well as a wireless connection to the internet to allow them to communicate easily with you and then to your home appliances. BBC reports that “a trigger word would cause them to wake up and turn their gaze towards the person addressing them, and would be able to check if the person talking was making eye contact” and respond with human like expressions.
“To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head and/or focus its gaze on the user,” Richard Wayne DeVau, director of rapid evaluation and mad science at Google X, and inventor of the Internet Connected Toys concept, wrote. “To express curiosity, [it] may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm.”
There are those who don’t like the idea. For those who have watched teddy bear horror movies like Five Nights think that Google might be planning to scare people with horror like teddy bear faces. There are also those who are scared that their private lives will be brought to light. The teddy bears or whatever Internet connected toys Google makes will by default have the ability to record images (they’ll have cameras for eyes), record conversations and possibly replay those to the right people at the wrong time – e.g. to a spouse who was out in a business trip.
What about the financial discussion you might have had in your closest? The teddy bear will know it all – and you never know. The tax guys or even the hackers could easily eves drop.
But aren’t all those concerns the concerns against IoT in general?