Google patents connected smart toys that listen, speak

By eeNews Europe

The patent refers to an "anthropomorphic device" in the form factor of a doll or toy that can aim its gaze at the source of a "social cue" – such as a movement or spoken phrase – and then interpret the command and transmit it to a media device ordering it to change state. Images on the patent show stuffed animals with embedded microphone arrays, speakers, motors, and cameras.

The embedded motors would enable the toys to both move their heads and limbs, and appear to open and close their eyes. Embedded cameras would allow them to recognize movements – i.e., "non-audio" signals – and even perform facial recognition.

Google smart toy

Images of example toys shown on the front page of Google’s patent filing.

The camera and microphone array could be used together to improve speech recognition or verify the direction of audio signals. The speaker would be used to acknowledge received commands. Even when appearing to be "asleep," the devices could still be able to detect movement and sounds.

The patent – titled "Agent Interfaces for Interactive Electronics that Support Social Cues" – was originally filed in February 2012, but was just recently published. It is already drawing criticism from some observers as being "creepy" and raising privacy concerns. Google has indicated that it does not necessarily have any plans to develop and sell the toys.

Google’s patent application: "Agent Interfaces for Interactive Electronics that Support Social Cues"