Mattel cancels AI device for children

October 06, 2017 // By Rich Pell
Toy maker Mattel (El Segundo, CA) has announced that it is canceling plans to sell a voice-enabled Wi-Fi smart device aimed at children.

Announced by the company earlier this year, the Aristotle digital assistant was marketed as "a voice assistant that grows up with your child." Now, says the company, as a result of privacy concerns from child advocacy groups and lawmakers, it has decided not to release the device, which was planned to be available in stores in 2018.

Officially, the company says that new executives at the firm decided it did not "fully align with Mattel's new technology strategy." According to the company, after reviewing the product, its new chief technology officer, Sven Gerjets, decided "not to bring Aristotle to the marketplace as part of an ongoing effort to deliver the best possible connected product experience to the consumer."

Basically an Amazon Echo for kids, Aristotle was designed to offer baby monitoring, games, facts, and sounds to help soothe children. It was also said to feature a custom AI engine that used natural language processing to learn a child's enunciation, and grow with their speech development.

After Aristotle was announced, a number of advocacy groups and politicians expressed concerns over potential privacy issues. In May, a petition asking Mattel not to release the device was started by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Story of Stuff Project, and collected more than 15,000 signatures.

According to the New York Times , the announcement of the device's cancellation was met with approval. "We commend Mattel for listening to the child development experts and thousands of parents who told them a child's bedroom should be free of corporate surveillance and that essential caregiving functions should never be outsourced to robots," Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood told the newspaper.

Mattel is making a greater push into digital toys. Its newest game, MindRacers, is an iPad-based game that lets users race the company's iconic Hot Wheels car toys in an augmented reality world. It is a result