Parents might soon have to deal with their children begging for teddy bears equipped with artificial intelligence that can have conversations and even instill values, according to a leading toymaker.
Allan Wong, chief executive of VTech Holdings, a Hong Kong-based toy and electronics company, told the Financial Times it was looking “very closely” at the use of AI in children’s toys, but admitted the thought is “a little scary.” Wong told the Times that toys could be equipped with ChatGPT-style intelligence by 2028.
“You can incorporate not only the kid’s name but the kid’s daily activities. [It] knows you go to which school … who your friends are,” Wong told the outlet. “It can actually be telling a story and talking almost like a good friend. The kids … can actually talk to the toy, and the toy can actually give [them] a response.”
Wong added that AI could generate “customized” stories for children instead of reading from a book, but the technology that powers ChatGPT is still too expensive for children’s toys — a reality that’s likely to change soon.
“I think we will have to wait another about five years when the price comes down to a certain level, then we can adapt a subset of those AI chips for toy use. But it’s coming.”
Along with the cost, Wong admits that generative AI is “not mature” enough to put in kids’ toys and says there are privacy concerns. For the teddy bear to have a conversation with the child, there would need to be a microphone. There’s also the question of privacy and whether any information or data would be kept. If the toy is meant to be a “good friend,” there’s no telling what a child might say to it, the Daily Mail notes.
“I think we should be aware of the dangers, on privacy, security, what kinds of things to teach and what not to teach,” Wong said.
Security specialist Jake Moore issued a stern warning on the privacy issue when it comes to kids’ toys, telling the Daily Mail, “Every time information such as the child’s name and interests is input into any AI algorithm, the data is stored, analyzed and potentially even shared for a price too with third parties.”
Some parents may also be wary of the toys because of the alleged left-leaning bias of some AI software, as reports of liberal answers by chatbots have been frequent in the past year, including on questions of gender ideology. As the Financial Times puts it, Wong said the smart toys would be able to “teach or even instill values.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has often warned about the dangers of AI, saying in a Fox News interview that the technology could bring “civilization destruction” if not properly regulated.
“AI is more dangerous than, say, mismanaged aircraft design or production maintenance or bad car production,” Musk told former Fox News host Tucker Carlson in April. “In the sense that it has the potential — however, small one may regard that probability, but it is non-trivial — it has the potential of civilization destruction.”