Barbie Gets a Smart Home
“Hello, Dreamhouse. Bring the elevator down to the first floor.”
By Samantha Murphy-Kelly
We’re still a few years away from the average person embracing a fully-connected smart home, but Barbie is an early adopter.
Mattel unveiled on Saturday at the 2016 International Toy Fair in New York City The Hello Barbie Dreamhouse, a high-tech take on the iconic’s doll’s signature home. And because she’s a modern woman in a modern world, she’s getting a drone this year, too.
Let’s start first with the dreamhouse, which is decked out with smart technology: it’s Wi-Fi enabled, connects with an app and features voice-recognition software, so kids can talk directly to the home.
Similar to how Siri works with Apple HomeKit-enabled products and how Amazon Echo syncs up with its own collection of gadgets, you make verbal requests, such as telling the home to give Barbie a ride in the elevator, asking it to turn on the virtual oven to get breakfast started and getting the mood set for a party (the lights flash on, the chandeliers spin and the stairs turn into a slide). The lights will also react to the command, “Hello, Dreamhouse. Turn on the bedroom light.”
Like Philips Hue smart lights, you can customize the shades and colors too. All of this — including the various pre-set modes of play (hangout, party and fun) that have different sets of lights, sounds and dialogue that will respond to the child — can be controlled via the accompanying app.
Light control features go beyond voice control too; by pressing a button built into the floor of each room, it “wakes up” the area so it knows you’re ready to play (e.g. the fireplace will turn on if the living room button is activated). This is how the room knows when Barbie is nearby and can react accordingly. It requires a power source, so you’ll also need to set it up near an outlet.
In a demo showed to Mashable, the voice-recognition software —
powered by tech from company Toy Talk — worked seamlessly with each request, although we weren’t able to try it out ourselves (a spokesperson dictated the commands). While there were certain lines of dialogue the house could understand, Mattel said the dreamhouse will get smarter over time.
The product comes just a year after Mattel introduced Hello Barbie, a doll with Siri-like capabilities that enables kids to have actual conversations. While Hello Barbie was a huge technological step forward, the doll came under fire after security researchers warned the toy could be used as a surveillance device by hackers to spy on children.
Most recently, however, Barbie made waves for introducing three new body types (curvy, petite, tall) to give kids more doll options with realistic body proportions. The new lineup is also on display at Toy Fair this year.
Barbie’s expansion into tech continues with her new Star Light Adventure RC Hoverboard RC drone ($59.99), which hovers above the air and is controlled via a remote control. Here’s a look at how the toy, which comes out in fall 2016, works: