Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
Google Robotics Toys Technology

Cute Or Creepy? Google's Plan For a Sci-Fi Teddy Bear 102 writes: Time Magazine reports that Google has designed and patented an "anthropomorphic device" that could take the form of a "doll or toy" and interact both with people as well as tech gadgets echoing the "super toy" teddy bear featured in Stephen Spielberg's 2001 movie AI. This could be one of Google's creepiest patents yet — especially if movies like "Chuckie" still give you nightmares. The patent filing diagrams a stuffed teddy bear and a bunny rabbit outfitted with microphones, speakers, cameras and motors as well as a wireless connection to the internet. If it senses you're looking at it, the fuzzy toy will rotate its head and look back at you. Once it receives and recognizes a voice command prompt, you can then tell it to control media devices in your home (e.g. turn on your music or TV). According to the patent filing: "To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head, and/or focus its gaze on the user or object of its interest. To express curiosity, an anthropomorphic device may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm. To express boredom, an anthropomorphic device may defocus its gaze, direct its gaze in a downward fashion, tap its foot, and/or close its eyes. To express surprise, an anthropomorphic device may make a sudden movement, sit or stand up straight, and/or dilate its pupils."

The patent adds that making the device look "cute" should encourage even the youngest members of a family to interact with it. But Mikhail Avady, from SmartUp, said he thought it belonged in "a horror film", and the campaign group Big Brother Watch has also expressed dismay. "When those devices are aimed specifically at children, then for many this will step over the creepy line," says Avady. "Children should be able to play in private and shouldn't have to fear this sort of passive invasion of their privacy."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Cute Or Creepy? Google's Plan For a Sci-Fi Teddy Bear

Comments Filter:
  • Hello... Human. You're....quite me...on.

    Where's the adsense angle here though? Can it recognize new objects in your house? Google can already listen to your conversations and whatnot through your phone.

    • by Misagon ( 1135 )

      The problem is that people sometimes tend to leave their phones to recharge in rooms that they don't occupy, and that would leave a data-acquisition gap.
      The microphone in the teddy bear could help fill that gap ...

      • by Meski ( 774546 )
        Extend the patent. It needs to be able to crawl. And several other things I shouldn't go into.
    • Where's the adsense angle here though?

      At night, while your children are sleeping, it will whisper ads into their ears.

      • They better watch out,
        They better not cry,
        They better not pout,
        I'm telling you why:
        Google Bear is coming to town!

        He's making their list,
        And checking it twice,
        Gonna find out who's paying the most.
        Google Bear is coming to town!
        He sees you when they're sleeping,
        He knows when they're awake.
        He knows what adds you buy,
        So pay up for goodness sake!

  • Sounds like they spent a lot of time talking about how it will stare at you and do a boatload of other creepy stuff. Outfit this bad-boy with some 'scary' vanity items, or maybe bash it up a bit and remove various parts, and you've got the horrors of several children. I think this and putting it in very odd places to scare friends and co-workers is the only use of this toy that comes to mind.
  • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Saturday May 23, 2015 @08:39AM (#49757907)

    How do you patent an idea that's been done in movies dozens if not hundreds of times? Do they have a working prototype? It's not like they're the first to envision something like this.

    • by Whiteox ( 919863 )

      It goes way back to an old sci-fi short story. About a youngling with teddy bear who speaks to her (?) and controls her. Eventually she abandons it and is picked up by another child. I recognize elements of the plot in a few modern vids. It's hard to determine prior art as there were a few stories that were written on the same theme by different authors.

      • by ColaMan ( 37550 )

        I remember one where a child's teddy bear/teacher - which was given to every child to aid in growing up - was reprogrammed by 'good people' to have all its warnings against killing absent. This was so the child could eventually kill the 'evil tyrant'.

    • It's worse than that; this is something that has been done again and again by researchers of various sorts. google with terms like "robot toy emotion study" and you'll get more variety along those lines than you can read through before you get bored.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Seriously what the fuck is the matter with the USPTO, they just allowed Google to patent a Furby []. Is the USPTO going to allow any US corporation to patent anything at all as part of some crazed extortion scheme targeted at the rest of the world, pay patent fees or face economic and or military sanctions.

    • It's basically just a baby monitor, inside a teddy bear. Not sure what's so creepy about it, it's not for google to spy, but for parents and homeowners. I swear I've heard of something just like this before, and not just in a movie. I've definitely heard of less fuzzy things that people use to monitor their house while at work, and remotely yell at the cat to get off the table.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Would Sebastian's dolls in Blade Runner be prior art?

    Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

    • Yes, that's why I was thinking -- plus the synthetic animals such as the Owl and Snake they showed. They didn't explore that, but who's to say they weren't networkable and capable of being voice programmed? I find this timely since I was considering how the use of friendly looking robots might become prevalent in shopping malls or other high traffic areas to provide people with information and assistance while also providing surveillance.
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      if the patent included the plans for the devices that make the invention happen and not just a fucking description of the invention, then it wouldn't be prior art.

      but as usual for the patents nowadays, it doesn't actually describe how to build the AI for such a doll. it only describes what the doll could do.

      patent office sleeping again. should not have been granted. also numerous other patents have done the same shit already, so this is more like "an idea previously described even in patents but IN A TEDDYB

  • "I am NOT a toy" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Saturday May 23, 2015 @08:49AM (#49757937) Journal
    The servant and sex worker mechas are next.

    The Gigolo Joe and corresponding female model might outsell the children's toys.

  • Teddy Ruxpin wasn't considered creepy, and I thought he looked creepy on just a commercial. I think it's the influence of cartoons. Everyone expects a teddy bear to move.

    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Saturday May 23, 2015 @09:57AM (#49758197) Journal

      Teddy Ruxpin wasn't considered creepy

      When mine started telling me to kill my neighbor with the dog that pees on my amaryllis, I thought that was a little bit creepy.

      In the end, it turned out Teddy was right, though.

      • When mine started telling me to kill my neighbor with the dog that pees on my amaryllis,...

        Ok, so you've got a dog. How do you use it to kill your neghbor?

        • Ok, so you've got a dog. How do you use it to kill your neghbor?

          I was hoping to find a link to a quake mod that lets you fire dobermans out of your shotgun, but I can't track it down now, so I'm posting in the hope that someone else will know where to find it instead.

    • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

      I think the thing about Teddy Ruxpin was that he had always moved. If you have an inanimate object for a lifetime, and then suddenly it springs to life but without facial features or moving eyes, yes that is creepy. But if it's advertised as a moving device from the start, it's not creepy as that's expected behavior. It's when things suddenly spring to life that it triggers stalking predator alarm bells in your brain. If your houseplant started talking to you that would be freaky, but if it said hello and g

    • If I remember correctly the "Teddy Ruxpin is creepy" meme stems from the fact that a Ruxpin on dying batteries would, well, sound exactly like any tape recorder on dying batteries: Wobbly and slowed down (and correspondingly pitched down). Also, the motions wouldn't work right because the motors wouldn't get enough power. I guess that might've creeped out a child or two.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 23, 2015 @09:05AM (#49757979)

    "To express murderous killing rage, an anthropomorphic device may grimace, lower its eyebrows, and chant 'blood...blood...'"

    I'm not sure imitating emotional responses is what we want machines to do. After all, we rely on empathy in others to get along in society. If the outward signs of emotion are false (as they are in psychopaths), we may be unaware of potential danger.

    Also, it just seems wrong to program in this behavior if the machine doesn't understand what it's doing.

    "Tell me, Sheila, what is love?"

    "Love is first widening my eyes a little bit, and quickening my breathing a little, and warming my skin, and touching with my..."

    "And so on. Exactly so. Thank you, Sheila."

  • by unitron ( 5733 ) on Saturday May 23, 2015 @09:07AM (#49757993) Homepage Journal

    ...who immediately thought of Harry Harrison's "I Always Do What Teddy Says"?

    • I did, I just couldn't remember the title or author. I just remembered that it was in an anthology of stories, all by the same author, one I really enjoyed, but not one of my top five favourites.
    • by Whiteox ( 919863 )

      Same as the other guy here. Your memory trumps mine.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    WHERE does the processing take place?

    In the bear? Then it isn't much of a problem.

    In a local server under the control of the parents? Then it isn't too much of a problem, though it opens up the possibility of either the server or the bear being hacked into.

    In a remote server? Really bad idea. You have no control over who is listening in, or what they might be directing the bear to do/say/command... And it opens the possiblity of the the server, the bear, or the intervening network being hacked into.

  • hang on... didn't bunnie huang do the "chumby", and didn't barbie try doing something like this - putting an interactive wifi and mic aspect into one of their barbie dolls... with a huge back-lash as a result? so (a) why is there an expectation that this will succeed (b) why was the patent granted when there is clear prior art???

  • Connected to the Internet?

    Pedobear approves!

  • What's creepy is that there's a patent for the obvious pairing of technology with the idea of a doll; archaeologists have found dolls tens of thousands of years old, so it's hardly original.

  • by Soft Filter ( 4112571 ) on Saturday May 23, 2015 @10:26AM (#49758311)
    "Anthropomorphic device" covers an awful lot of territory. Humanoid robots are anthropomorphic by definition. The term isn't limited to mechanical bears and such. Of course stuffed robot toys will respond to the user, express surprise and become generally more interactive. That's the natural evolution of Teddy Ruxpin, Furby, dolls that move their eyes, robots that fetch things etc. Toy and robot manufacturers should develop and improve on such products as they see fit. Google does not have a legitimate claim to this idea. There's nothing novel about it. Even if such a patent exists, it shouldn't hold up in court. If there's anything creepy going on here, it's that Google has so much clout. If they can get away with patenting this sort of thing, then they may as well just patent the idea of dolls or robots in general and be done with it.
    • Easy -- it's patentable because no one would ever think of copying the most obvious mammalian expressions of emotion, to make something appear to express emotions. This valuable insight needs to be protected to the full extent of the law, so no one steals these ideas without compensating the geniuses who came up with them.

    • Somebody at Google wanted some beer money, and convinced their manager somehow to let them file. You get a bonus of a few hundred bucks at most companies for contributing to the wallpaper collection of patents in the hall the CEO likes to escort visitors through.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If it senses you're looking at it, the fuzzy toy will rotate its head and look back at you.

    Ever see facial recognition on cameras register faces that aren't there? Imagine that, but in the middle of the night, and manifested as your robot pal turning its head to an empty corner of the room and saying hello. Not that the monitoring and hacking aspects aren't scary enough.

  • "Stephen Spielberg's 2001 movie AI"

    I remember that quite vividly, also all the critics who said about the AI.

    He wants our love,
    we want our money back.

    • I would have loved that movie if it had just ended with the blue fairy. After the blue fairy was pure dreck.
    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      Of course he wants your love. He's a surrogate for that real child that you have in cryo-prservation.

  • Fun with Paintbrush: Teddy Ruxpin + Google Glass = Sergey Ruxpin []

  • This is sad. Why not cite the original Brian Aldiss short story, instead of Spielberg's abomination that had very little to do with the original content? In the movie, the super-toy was just a minor sub-plot.

  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Saturday May 23, 2015 @11:15AM (#49758571)

    welcome our new teddy bear overlords.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Time to watch the end of Screamers again.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Another device designed to spy on us and report back to our corporate thats designed to look cute and cuddly. I thought it was bad enough (and more than creepy!) when a smart TV with a camera and microphone could watch and listen to you while you watch TV. And how do you know that the mic and camera aren't live all of the time, even when the TV is "off"?! Now we have Teddy the Superspy that will be live all of the time, and sending info to its creators via the internet all of the time. A

  • Let's go even further back, to Anne McCaffrey's novel The Rowan, which featured a pooka—an animatronic stuffed bear used as a therapy device for the titular character. Published in 1990.

    Technically not prior art, since it was a sci fi bear, far advanced of current robotics, with sensors in every hair, and squishable enough to be hugged by a child.

  • I wonder what this patent will mean for the widely renowned social robitics pioneer who started the JIBO project on indiegogo. []
  • They already exist, they are called Furby's. And "annoying" is a better description than "creepy".

  • by koan ( 80826 )

    Can they give it a brown shirt and teach it to goose step?

  • My dogs claim prior art on all of these behaviors. Sorry Google.

  • ... because, yeah, it will have an internet connection (though that isn't part of the patent), and the darling toy will guide the child to the desired consumption protocols. Or more disturbingly, who controls when the microphone and camera are on ... yeah, camera. How did you think it was going to tell when someone was looking at it?

    "Ask your parents for another playmate like me. Wouldn't that be fun?"
    "Let's go to the living room and see what everyone is watching."
    "Do _you_ think your parents are hurting

  • Surveillance Barbie from Matel.
  • This is just the patent for Google Panda. I'm surprised they waited until after their April Fool's joke to
    get this patent but it might have been that the Google Panda was really ment as a joke then they
    started getting a bunch of "I really want one" messages and decided that they better patent it.

Show me a man who is a good loser and I'll show you a man who is playing golf with his boss.