After public bipartisan outcry, Mattel has decided to cease plans for production of the artificial intelligence children’s assistant “Aristotle.”
Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) were among the loudest voices in opposition to Mattel’s idea to develop an electronic au pair in the vein of Google’s Alexa, or the Amazon Echo. Even after the “Hello Barbie” furor, the toy company was preparing an offering for the increasingly crowded “smart” parenting market.
Aristotle would have used its constant observational skills to learn about the children in the home — which was the center of many parents’ concerns. Worries about the uses of data collected on minors was the subject of the senators’ criticisms, as well as an online petition which gathered more than 15,000 signatures. Originally, Mattel responded with a guarantee that Aristotle’s memory would be heavily encrypted, and unavailable to advertisers.
Nevertheless, after bringing in new Chief Technology Officer Sven Gerjets, Mattel released a statement announcing that they had chosen “not to bring Aristotle to the marketplace as part of an ongoing effort to deliver the best possible connected product experience to the consumer.”
Josh Golin, executive director for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood took a moment to “commend” Mattel’s decision:
We commend Mattel for putting children’s well-being first and listening to the concerns of child development experts and thousands of parents who urged them not to release this device. This is a tremendous victory for everyone who believes children still have a right to privacy and that robots can never replace loving humans as caregivers.
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