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Mattel's Internet-of-kiddies'-Things Aristotle canned before release

Philosopher, stoned

By Richard Chirgwin, 6 Oct 2017

Mattel's Aristotle, a kid's-Alexa-only-more-creepy, won't get the chance to invade children's bedrooms after all: the company's cancelled it.

CTO Sven Gerjets didn't tell the Washington Post why the product did not “fully align with Mattel's new technology strategy”, only that the decision was made after he reviewed the product.

At CES in January, the Aristotle was received as "your plastic pal who's fun to be with", described variously as “the most exciting thing toymaker Mattel has ever produced” because it could “read your children bedtime stories”, an “AI to help raise your child”.

We felt it was creepy at the time, and so did the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which raised 15,000 signatures warning Mattel of privacy and childhood development concerns.

In late September, Senator Edward Markey and Congressman Joe Barton chimed in with their concerns, drawing a promise from Mattel that Aristotle would use “high level encryption” and wouldn't be sharing data with advertisers.

That commitment seems at odds with the January CES pitch for the product, since its makers told Bloomberg partnerships with Target, Babies “R” Us and “other retailers” meant it could help with purchases of diapers and other baby supplies.

At the time Mattel also pointed to “further partnerships with shopping, education, and entertainment apps, including Mattel’s own cross-branding”.

Incidentally, the cancellation robs suppliers Qualcomm and Microsoft of a showcase for the difficult AI problem of how to interact with children. ®

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