Do you remember the Tamagotchi? Back in 1996 the world had its first taste of a mass-market robot toy. It sold by the millions. Children all over the world loved it. They would take it to school, rather than leaving it at home which caused all manner of problems. The manufacturers eventually introduced a pause button, so the disruption was not so intense.
The story of the Tamagotchi is that it is an egg-shaped alien sent to earth to be raised by us. So, you need to take good care of your robot alien. It’s a mechanical pet that needs to be fed and watered or it will not do well. If you take good care of it, then it grows up and needs less attention.
The original idea was to aim it at teenage girls who might be interested in what it is like to raise a baby. But boys and girls everywhere soon got hooked. Even today there’s still a Tamagotchi world out there. Later versions of Tamagotchi robots can talk to each other, can even get married and have children of their own.
Barbie dolls have been around since 1950 but in 2015, there was a breakthrough. The latest barbie doll would be able to chat! And chat intelligently, not just recycle a few old phrases.
Hello Barbie, is a sort of super-Tamagotchi, the latest robot toy and designed as an even better companion for children than the dumb toys that require their imaginations to do all the work.
It’s a robot toy that raises all sorts of questions. For example, what kind of advice will she be giving to little girls? Do we want children to be using their imaginations or relying on conversations written by companies to entertain them? More fundamentally, confusing the real and fake is complicated when it comes to children.
Questions to think about
- Are we comfortable with intelligent toys? Are they a good way to introduce children to what’s coming in the robot world or the opposite?
To find out the answer to that question, why not buy yourself a copy of The Robots are Coming: Us, Them and God. For a short period of time, it’s available at a discounted price of £4.99, down from its normal price of £9.99. You can get a copy from our shop.