A Short History of Unnecessarily Terrifying Toy Patents
Caption: Google/U.S. Patent Office
Caption: Hasbro/U.S. Patent Office
Caption: Levy, Maddocks/U.S. Patent Office
Caption: MattelSkip Article Header. Skip to: Start of Article. Hasbro
Google does a lot. Search, email, translation, browsers, phones, chat, docs and much, much more. And if its most recently published patent application is any indication, it’s thinking about getting in on the high-tech, creepy toy game.
Said patent is for a connected “anthropomorphic device” that will respond to “social cues” to control media devices in the home, likely with the intention of becoming an integral part of the Internet of Things. This “anthropomorphic device will include cameras for eyes and microphones in its ears. It may even have facial and voice recognition abilities so that commands and interactions can be adjusted, based on user permissions. Some versions “may include one or more motors, actuators, servos, wheels, and so on to allow the client device to move.” You know what they say: A robot revolution worth spawning is worth spawning with mobility.Google/U.S. Patent Office
The patent application essentially lays out the means by which Google Teddy* will be able to run your home, saying that it will detect social cues and communicate with media devices, which will change state depending on the commands mapped from Teddy to the said device. The examples provided include playing television shows and music, but the application explains “the term ‘media device’ is used herein for sake of convenience. It should be interpreted generically, to refer to any type of device that can be controlled. Thus, a media device may be a home entertainment device that plays media, a home automation device that controls the environmental aspects of a location, or some other type of device.”
Patent Applicants Daniel Aminzade and Richard Wayne DeVaul state in the patent application that the device could take many shapes and result in various form factors. While the form factors shown in the patent illustrations are a rabbit and a teddy bear, Aminzade and DeVaul note that an anthropomorphic device can take virtually any form–human, animal, fictional creature, inanimate object, hologram, dragon, alien, etc.
While it’s just a patent application and we’re unlikely to see anything hit the market in the near future, it’s interesting that Google would package and Internet of Things hub inside what looks like a toy. For small children, it’d probably be just that. But this is only the latest in a long line of terrifying patents that came in cuddly packages.Hasbro/U.S. Patent Office
Why did anyone have a Furby? Everything about it was a warning flag. The eyes, the fur, the moving ears, the fact that it could get angry; the list goes on.
The patent filing for Furby includes totally normal, warm-fuzzy phrases such as “interactive playthings… communicate with one another via the infrared communication link,” “the toy plaything is very good at letting people know when it needs something,” and “as soon as the toy plaything gives a kiss, the child should pet its back 2 times.”
I will admit to being unaware that Hasbro was even still making Furby, but now that I know it feels a lot like the toy-world equivalent of Mercury in retrograde.Levy, Maddocks/U.S. Patent Office
Here’s a fun toy-related patent:
“Toy figures with rupturable microcapsules for simulated bleeding.”
Basically, this patent is for a feature in which a child’s toy can be seriously wounded and bleed out in her arms on the living room floor or mercilessly eviscerate another toy and adorn its teeth with the blood of its victims. Because sometimes, you just want a toy to scar your child for life so you don’t have to.Mattel
Mattel’s Hello Barbie doesn’t have an official release date, and if activists concerned about child privacy get their way, she never will. Hello Barbie is designed to listen to children, store information in the cloud, make logical connections, and respond in conversation. As a connected toy, it’s meant to literally make the Internet of Things child’s play. With the ability to store information and make intelligent decisions, this type of interactive toy may have the ability to stimulate a child’s imagination in new ways. But, because it listens to your child intently, remembers everything she says, and suffers from the inherent vulnerability of Web-connectedness, it’s stirring up some privacy controversy.
What a time to be alive. At least until Google Teddy decides that we’re the weak link in the evolutionary chain and eliminates us for good with cute paws and hacked nuclear launch codes.
*Not its real name, but cuter than “anthropomorphic device 104.”Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.