Due to be released for sales in November, Mattel's Hello Barbie will feature deep artificial intelligence, much like Apple's Siri. With a WiFi connection, Hello Barbie will generate 8000+ responses and hopes to become your little girl's best friend.
In the past, Mattel has come in for much criticism for reinforcing stereotypical attitudes in young girls rather than expanding the possibilities of their world. Also, the slim, busty, and blond Barbie was seen to lower girls' self-esteem by projecting an unrealistic desire to look just like her.
Hello Barbie will be different. Exactly how different is revealed by two separate incidents in which the A.I.- equipped doll gave some unexpected advice to girls during beta testing.
When one young girl complained to her mother that another girl had threatened to kill her, it was discovered that the supposed attacker had gotten the idea from Hello Barbie. "I told Barbie that I was being bullied in school," the accused girl said. "Barbie told me to tell a grown-up what was happening. I told Barbie that the teacher wouldn't help me. So, Barbie told me to whisper in the bully's ear that if she didn't stop being mean to me, I would come into her house at night with a sharp knife and cut her throat."
The second disturbing incident involved an actual death. A 42 year-old piano teacher was killed by an 8 year-old girl. "I told Barbie that he was touching me in a bad way. Barbie told me to tell my mother, but she didn't believe me. Barbie told me to bring a really sharp pencil to my next piano lesson and to stick it hard into his eye if he began touching me. So I did," the girl explained.
It appears that Hello Barbie will be empowering little girls in a whole new way.
A Mattel spokesman denied any corporate involvement in these occurrences and said the company will investigate the possibility that unknown persons hacked into the A.I. database software.