112 results for “Toys-are-Us”

A guide to parenting with AI Barbie

Siri Beerends
August 13th 2019

The rise of artificial intelligence has brought us more advanced toys. If AI Barbie and her talking robotic friends are going to raise our kids, what would their parenting style be like?

In the nineties, Tamagotchi was hugely popular amongst kids; the egg-shaped key chain wasn’t to be let out of your sight, ever. Four simple buttons gave millions of children worldwide the ability to feed snacks and attention to their pixelated pet, so as to keep it from dying …

Robo Wunderkind is a modular robot even a five-year-old can program

Kelly Streekstra
September 21st 2018

Meet the Robo Wunderkind, a new breed of smart toys that introduces children to the basics of coding and robotics in a playful way. …

How AI could revolutionize the teaching profession

Jack Caulfield
March 6th 2018

In various parts of the world, access to education is, or risks becoming, a huge crisis. UNESCO estimates that around 20 million new teachers are needed worldwide - and that's not taking into account the huge number set to retire in the next decade. With this level of demand, some specialists believe the key to filling the gap could be artificial intelligence. …

Tiny Food Made in a Tiny Kitchen

Ruben Baart
April 17th 2017
A small introduction to tiny cooking.

Barbie Becomes a Hologram of Herself

Julie Reindl
March 2nd 2017
Barbie has been turned into a hologram version of herself and will now be your kids assistend.

Lego Bricks Come Alive

Ruben Baart
January 14th 2017
Lego announced the next generation of building bricks, bringing the creations to life.

The Next Nature Sneaker Series

Mathilde Nakken
December 14th 2016
We present for the real sneaker heads amongst us, six new futuristic pieces of footwear. Going from pineapple leather to self lacing 'Back to the Future' Nikes.

Fitness Tracker to Make Happy Meal Healthier

Ruben Baart
August 30th 2016
McDonald’s provided their Happy Meals with a high-tech activity tracker toy.

Are There Pokémon on the Moon?

Ruben Baart
August 16th 2016
Pokémon Go is slowly taking over our planet. People know more Pokémon than bird or tree species. However, avid players will have noticed that some of the first-gen Pokémon are not available in the game yet.

Disney-Themed Prosthetics for Children

Ruben Baart
July 26th 2016
Open Bionics is helping children in need for bionic hands. With Iron Man, Frozen, or Star Wars-themed prosthetics, their fantasies become reality.
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The rise of artificial intelligence has brought us more advanced toys. If AI Barbie and her talking robotic friends are going to raise our kids, what would their parenting style be like?

In the nineties, Tamagotchi was hugely popular amongst kids; the egg-shaped key chain wasn’t to be let out of your sight, ever. Four simple buttons gave millions of children worldwide the ability to feed snacks and attention to their pixelated pet, so as to keep it from dying a tragic, virtual death.

The rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning and face, emotion and voice recognition technologies, has advanced our robotic friends in a very significant way. It might feel awkward for you to confide in Pepper, Zora, Hello Barbie, Alice, Sam, Kayla, iCat, Paro or Robear, but for some kids, this is their daily reality.

New ways of communicating 

Because of the use in healthcare and education, the ethical debate about robotic companionship has existed for quite some time. Society has debated the social value of interactive robotic contact. Some people feel that robots can only simulate understanding and empathy and are therefore only second-best to real human contact. There are also worries about the way social robots change human communication. If our companions do not have a consciousness, this could make us humans less social. Some even say that kids commandeering Alexa could lead to them talking in the same way to their parents.

Others point to the valuable communication that social robots could stimulate. An example is robots that are used to help autistic kids make contact with other people. But we need different frameworks and categories to understand these new forms of interaction. As a study has confirmed, kids categorize their robotic friends somewhere in the range between ‘alive’ and ‘not alive’.

Strikingly, there is no such debate regarding smart toys - except some debates about safety concerns - even though the Internet of Toys is an emerging market that can heavily influence the identity development and socialisation of young kids.

Big Barbie is judging you

The media exhaustively warns against smart Barbies that can be hacked, can be listened into, can be used to scrape data and to record videos. But parents themselves can not be let off the hook. Some parents are spying on their kids 24/7 with their own version of smart toys, with tracking apps or teddy bears with built-in cameras. Pedagogues are worried that kids are not able to explore their boundaries anymore or that they no longer dare to make mistakes because they always feel like their parents are watching them.

The current debate about smart toys is mostly focused on privacy. ‘Big Barbie is watching you’ is on our radar, but what about ‘Big Barbie is judging you’?

Kid: "I feel shy trying to make new friends."

Barbie: "Feeling shy is nothing to feel bad about. Just remember this, you made friends with me right away.”

Barbie seems to have distinct ideas about friendship, which proposes the question about which other subjects she might have (strong) opinions. What would she for example answer if you would ask her if she is religious? Or more importantly, what do the programmers think that AI Barbie should answer when a kid asks her if she is religious?

The responses that have been programmed into smart toys indirectly contain value judgments about the world surrounding us. These judgments influence the way in which kids develop their identities. In May of 2018, Stefania Druga presented the first results of her study ‘My Doll Says It’s OK: Voice-Enabled Toy Influences Children’s Moral Decisions’. The most important conclusion: smart toys have more influence on the moral choices of children than humans do. And, they change the way children play, fantasize and work together.

If parents buy an AI Barbie or AI Cayla, they are not just bringing a talking doll into their homes – they will have to deal with an AI guide to parenting too. They need to learn to cooperate and co-educate with it. Are the pre-programmed beliefs about education pedagogically justifiable and who creates them?

Parenting is something everyone has an opinion about. Currently, there’s a large debate about so-called ‘curling parents’. These are parents – just like in the sport of Curling– that sweep away all obstacles for their kids. Pedagogues are afraid that this does not allow children to develop into resilient adults that are able to deal with friction. If friction is so essential to our development, we might also need smart toys that contradict us now and then.

Authoritarian or laissez-faire

We do not know a lot yet about what parental guidelines are programmed into smart toys and the way in which AI intervenes in the relationship between parents and their children. It is important to further research this, to get an idea of how we want smart toys to function. This also means that we have to be aware that smart toys reflect the values, judgements and stakes from the world it is developed in.

Together with Stefania Druga, the Creative Learning Lab of Waag and SETUP organized a hackathon to design several provotypes (provoking prototypes). We programmed AI toys with different styles of upbringing and explored if it was possible to give kids space for a freer, more creative way of playing. How predictable is AI Barbie and will she be more of an authoritarian or more laissez-faire? By developing possible scenarios and discussing different perspectives with researchers, the event kickstarted a lively dialogue about smart toys, and showed that there is much more to discuss.

An important realization is that when we talk about for example human-robot friendships, we think of these concepts in holistic terms. This limits us from thinking about which aspects of friendship AI or smart toys can replace, which does not mean that they replace friendship completely. What aspects we can and want to replace is a question worth exploring. After all, the AI guide to parenting is something we will have to develop together, not something we should leave up to toy manufacturers alone.

The AI AI Barbie project is a collaboration between SETUP and Waag.

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Meet the Robo Wunderkind, a new breed of smart toys that introduces children to the basics of coding and robotics in a playful way.

Advanced technologies are increasingly embedded in the toys for our children. During the evolution of the 'smartification' of toys, the playthings increasingly mimic human social behavior - from a talking Furby to robotic lego.

But, smartifying ourselves may have been staggering behind a little. The call for more and earlier education in programming and robotics is not adequately answered yet. And that's where the Robo Wunderkind comes in.

It lets you code and control your robot through two apps, Robo Code and Robo Live, which communicate with the iconic colorful building blocks. These physical blocks are not just simple plastic cubes; they're equipped with special tools. Think of motion and light detectors and proximity sensors. But also more more advanced tools like programmable LED lights, tiny cameras, and IR blasters and receivers: let your Robots communicate and control the TV!

We got introduced to the Robo Wunderkind at this year's Fifteen Seconds Festival. Here, we got to speak with the people behind the Robo Wunderkind, and asked them about their visions for its future, educational purposes and childhood play.

The experience of Robo Wunderkind brings our children closer to technology. Do you think such early involvement could change people's relation to technology? Perhaps make it more intuitive, more natural?

We at Robo Wunderkind see our mission in introducing children to the technologies that surround them in a friendly and mindful way. Since modern kids are already born into the world boosting with advanced technologies, we want to show them how to take the active part in creating the landscape and become creators, not just consumers. The future is here and it calls for the new skills, and the only way to acquire them is to choose the right learning tools for our children to learn through play. Robo Wunderkind modular robotics kits provide exactly this opportunity.

The future of education may be a lot different from that of today. What changes do you anticipate? What role do you think coding/programming is going to play in the future of education? What is the most important lesson kids should experience about programming, technology and robots?

There is no denying that digital literacy will make a significant impact on the development of the professional future of today's children, making it as important as learning foreign languages. Having the playful experience of tinkering, solving the challenges, debugging, children grow up prone to logical thinking and seeing the problems as the temporary task to solve, not as an obstacle for the further development.  

Bringing our technology to "life" is a long-lived trend, think of furby's and 'smart' toys. What do you think this aspect, of 'living' technology, adds to the experience of toys?

Based on our experience of developing Robo Wunderkind, many toys which have a character rooted in them, seem to be more appealing to children. Kids will practically bond with such toy, which emotionally enriches their play experience. The 'living' technology definitely brings the play to the next level and makes kids' engagement with toys stronger.

Do you think kids could get an attachment to the robo wunderkinds? Are they the pets of the future?

Robo is created to be kid's new best friend, which acts as a learning aid in providing its little users with intuitive and simple, yet engaging immersion into the creator experience. The most powerful and inspiring thing we as a collective behind Robo Wunderkind could do is to create this nurturing environment where children could feel they are actually creating something - both physical and digital and translate their creative idea into its technological execution. So robots could serve their primary function - act as assistants and help people facilitate big and small tasks.

How do you try to ensure that the Robo Wunderkind is equally attractive to any gender/ boys and girls?

We believe girls can get naturally excited in all thing tech once they are exposed to it early on and acquire more confidence as they figure out how to manipulate it. Robo's colorful modules are purposefully designed to be gender neutral and appealing for both girls and boys, our educators also make sure the project ideas will resonate with our users and boost their curiosity and maker spirit.

What will the future Robo Wunderkind be like, if you had all imaginary technologies available? Why?

If we could do anything we wanted technical-wise, Robo Wunderkind would be a lifelong toy companion, which would literally transform and adapt during an individual's lifespan. So to say a toy and a learning tool for everyone from 0 to 99+, because learning is a lifelong process and it is never too late to start experimenting.

[post_title] => Robo Wunderkind is a modular robot even a five-year-old can program [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => robo-wunderkind [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-07 14:36:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-07 13:36:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=91192 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 79831 [post_author] => 1425 [post_date] => 2018-03-06 15:16:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-06 14:16:25 [post_content] => In various parts of the world, access to education is, or risks becoming, a huge crisis. UNESCO estimates that around 20 million new teachers are needed worldwide - and that's not taking into account the huge number set to retire in the next decade. With this level of demand, some specialists believe the key to filling the gap could be artificial intelligence.

AI teaching by 2027

Given, that subheading might seem farfetched. But Anthony Seldon, the British education expert who made the claim last September, stands by his prediction. It's widely agreed that robotization is on its way. But usually, we think of it in the context of jobs that are risky, monotonous, or otherwise unsuited to humans. In the context of education, many would object, human personality is important.Teachers, after all, have a delicate task on their hands. They are responsible for a large part of children and teenagers' intellectual and emotional development. They have to communicate a wealth of knowledge to their charges, and at the same time ensure their behavior doesn't cause any problems. It's a job that, at first glance, seems to require a pretty non-robotic skillset.Another expert, Rose Luckin of UCL, tones down Selden's claims somewhat. “I do not believe that any robot can fulfill the wide range of tasks that a human teacher completes on a daily basis," she says. But she remains optimistic about the possibilities for AI in education. The difference is that Luckin views AIs not as potential teachers, but rather as teaching assistants.

AI & Analytics

So what does Luckin suggest these AI helpers ought to do? A lot of things, it turns out. For a start, Luckin suggests, AI could certainly assist with the elements of teaching that are basically routine: Grading multiple-choice tests, taking attendance, finding appropriate lesson plans. But that's not all.Luckin argues that if AI are suitable for routine, uncreative jobs, they are also suitable for roles involving data collection and analytics. She suggests outfitting future classrooms with various sensors - speech recognition software, eye-tracking, and so on - to monitor the behavior, mood, and attention of the class.Teachers could use this data to determine which students need extra attention, either providing this attention themselves or directing the student to work with an AI-powered tutoring system programmed with that student's learning style in mind. Students could even access their own records to learn about how good and bad learning habits affect their performance.

The human element?

This risks being the most controversial part of classroom AI integration. Parents and students may object on principle to this sort of surveillance. And certainly, the sensitive data collected would need to be well-protected.AI integration also risks drawing the ire of teachers who fear being automated out of their jobs. Those who consider AI potentially dangerous might also object. So might those who simply think teaching always requires a "human touch". But Luckin's proposals emphasize the secondary role of AI in teaching, as a tool like any other, and always subservient to the teacher.There's still time to puzzle out these issues. Classroom AI integration likely won't happen for another decade or more. But if we want to make it the best we possibly can, it's important to think about it, like Seldon and Luckin, well in advance._________________________Now, would you trust your kid with a robot? Let us know in the comments below! [post_title] => How AI could revolutionize the teaching profession [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => ai-revolutionize-teaching [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-07 14:44:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-07 13:44:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=79831/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 73323 [post_author] => 873 [post_date] => 2017-04-17 08:53:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-17 06:53:22 [post_content] => Honey, I shrunk the… stove? Let us introduce you to the wonderful world of tiny cooking. The avid YouTube user probably already discovered this viral trend in 2014, but a recent Kickstarter campaign is bringing the miniature utensils to our real-sized kitchens.You would be surprised to hear that cooking is the first technology humans ever invented. This invention allowed our ancestors to pre-digest food before eating, which led to bigger brains and basically allowed evolution to do its part by turning them into the modern human beings we are today.As modern human beings, we do modern things. Watching YouTube videos in our spare time is one of them. Try searching for ‘tiny cooking’ and be amazed by the search results you will get. From tiny tacos to a tiny strawberry shortcake and tiny fried chicken and waffles. It’s a form of art. The trend started in Japan in 2014 due to the cultural dominance of kawaii (all things cute), but nowadays has become widely known and moved from the world of toys and accessories to edible ingredients. Fun fact: in 2015, a report from Tubular Labs indicated that tiny cooking videos contributed up to three percent of the total views in the food category on YouTube.So, where does one purchase such a tiny kitchen stove? On Kickstarter, naturally. Tastemade (one of the leading tiny kitchen platforms) developed a miniature stove for their tiny cooking fanbase and shared its workability on Instagram, when they baked 42 tiny donuts with the set in just one hour. We cannot wait to see what's next for this viral trend and are sitting on the edge of our seats for the moment tiny in-vitro burgers and tiny lab-grown chickens will be served from the tiny kitchen. [post_title] => Tiny Food Made in a Tiny Kitchen [post_excerpt] => A small introduction to tiny cooking. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => tiny-cooking [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-18 23:55:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-18 21:55:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=73323/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 71834 [post_author] => 1317 [post_date] => 2017-03-02 11:03:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-02 10:03:32 [post_content] => Barbie came alive! No, we don't mean Valerie Lukyanova, the woman who turned herself into a human barbie, but the iconic 1950 doll that resides in girls' bedrooms ever since. In the last 67 years, Barbie has been presidential candidate, doctor, scientist, chef, musician, astronaut, architect, computer engineering and now she’s becoming a 3D-animated hologram personal assistant for your kid. Last week Mattel released the Hello Barbie doll, a laser-beamed character that couples motion-capture animation with lively Amazon Echo AI like behavior.When you pronounce the words “Hello Barbie” the doll comes to life. Until now you can ask her to change her appearance, switch outfits, set alarms, she also functions as a nightlight or takes over the job of a dance teacher. If you wanna know the weather conditions she’s the one to ask. Hello Barbie's creator states that “when a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she can become”.For years Barbie's designers has been criticized for maintaining unrealistic bodily proportions and putting a strong emphasis on her appearance. With an huge amount of photoshopped and retouched images, it is not surprising that this shaped unrealistic standards. Now, some people might argue that the Hello Barbie Hologram contributes to increase this concern, as it is yet possible to change the core look of the representation.Barbie has come a long way from being inspired by a German comic and can be perfectly used to identify a specific generation Zeitgeist, maybe this can help us reflect on the evolution we have produced until now.Source: Techcrunch. Image: Wired [post_title] => Barbie Becomes a Hologram of Herself [post_excerpt] => Barbie has been turned into a hologram version of herself and will now be your kids assistend. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => barbie-becomes-hologram [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-05 10:27:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-05 09:27:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=71834/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 70317 [post_author] => 873 [post_date] => 2017-01-14 18:00:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-14 17:00:57 [post_content] => The future of toys is robotic. Danish toy manufacturer Lego recently announced the next generation of building bricks features a series of interactive motors and programmable bricks that can be added to existing Lego kits, bringing the creations to life.Unveiled at CES in Las Vegas, Lego Boost kit takes the multicolored toy bricks to the next level with movement and audio, allowing children to build motorized and motion-sensitive toys by simply connecting their constructions to a smartphone app.Aimed at kids aged 7-12, the set allows to build five different models from Lego bricks, including a robot called Vernie, a cat, a guitar, a vehicle and the Autobuilder, a robot that builds mini Lego creations.This is not the first time Lego takes part in educational initiatives. Last year the company launched the WeDo 2.0 robotics kit to help teach primary-level school children engineering and coding. Perhaps the Boost kit can make kids join the discussion on the future of work, challenging them to work creatively with the building bricks of what is yet to come. They are, after all, the future.Source: CNET. Image: Lego [post_title] => Lego Bricks Come Alive [post_excerpt] => Lego announced the next generation of building bricks, bringing the creations to life. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => lego-bricks-come-alive [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-16 12:26:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-16 11:26:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=70317 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 69352 [post_author] => 936 [post_date] => 2016-12-14 16:00:38 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-14 15:00:38 [post_content] => It has already been four years since we launched our bioengineered sneaker collection Rayfish Footwear. Therefore we present for the real sneaker heads amongst us, six new futuristic pieces of footwear to find out how you will walk into the future.Lacing for dummy’s - Nike HyperAdapt 1.0FY16_INNO_SNOWCAP_v2_HERO_RT_NoEarl_V1_hd_1600Say goodbye to your primary school shoe lacing diploma with Nike's HyperAdapt 1.0. Remember the iconic scene from Back to the Future II, where you saw a pair of self-lacing shoes? Nike had launched similar sneakers before, though none of them was able to do the magic lacing trick. After more than two decades of designing, the self-lacing shoe is a fact. With one single push on the button the power lacing starts, creating the ultimate fit for every foot.Walking on pineapples - Piñatexc4x2grjcgyblkse0t2ceDesigner Carmen Hijosa found herself indecisive. On the one hand she enjoyed working with leather, whereas on the other she couldn’t cope with the environmental impact of the material. Thus she started a material research to develop a more sustainable substitute, and found her solution in pineapple leaves. The long fibers of the leaves are converted into a new textile called Piñatex. The discovery of this bio leather did not go unnoticed as Puma, as well as Camper have already developed their first prototypes.Becoming a walking battery - Instep NanopowerSole-Shoe-Workbench-775x517Did you ever consider the amount of energy your soles generate while walking? Probably not, so the developers of InStep NanoPower did. Their shoe contains a special sole that harvests power from every step you make. And guess what, the electrical energy is strong enough to power your mobile devices, like your smartphone or tablet. Imagine the cut down on your energy bill, having your hyperactive four-year-old cousin wearing them daily.Buying your sense of direction - Lechal Haptic Footwear352312-lechal-footwear-1It is always fun to change your running track every once in a while. Though you might end up being lost, checking the location on your phone constantly. With Lechal shoes you will never lose track again. Before you leave home, you simply map out your route and while running the shoes tell you where to go. Vibrations in the left sole tell you to take the left corner and your right foot will be addressed to take a turn right. This technique was initially developed for visually impaired people, but the developers found that almost anyone could use an extra navigation tool.Designing for eight legs - Futurecraft Biofabricadidas-biosteel-synthetic-silk-1-537x403Instead of selling all time classics, Adidas produces a biodegradable reducement of your own global footprint. In collaboration with the German company AMSilk, they launched the Futurecraft Biofabric. These running shoes are made out of bioengineered spider silk, taking the strength of spiderswebs as their inspiration - making sure not one spider was involved during the production process. However, Adidas renamed their spider silk into biosteel; perhaps to overcome the arachnephobics amongst us.When feet replace the mind - Smart Shoe 001Digitsole-smartshoe-600With the purchase of a pair of Smart Shoes 001, you might end up confused whether it's a smartphone or a shoe. These sneakers are equipped with various technological features; from self-lacing to a build-in pedometer. It also tells you how much calories you burnt, and if that's not enough, the soles have a build in heating system. By way of a bluetooth connection you can change the settings of the shoes in one single app, which also records the statistics on your health. You could say the only disadvantage of these sneakers is that you still have to walk them yourself.Cover image: Coroflot [post_title] => The Next Nature Sneaker Series [post_excerpt] => We present for the real sneaker heads amongst us, six new futuristic pieces of footwear. Going from pineapple leather to self lacing 'Back to the Future' Nikes. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => next-nature-sneaker-series [to_ping] => [pinged] => https://nextnature.net/2015/07/marketing-the-oceans/ [post_modified] => 2016-12-17 11:56:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-17 10:56:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=69352 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 65507 [post_author] => 873 [post_date] => 2016-08-30 15:57:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-08-30 13:57:59 [post_content] => During the Olympics in Rio, burger baron McDonald’s provided their Happy Meals with a high-tech toy, a pedometer. The wrist-worn wearable was marketed for youngsters as a way to help keep them active. Unfortunately, as good as it sounded, the activity tracker appeared to cause skin irritation, and so the company withdrew their toy.Obviously it was no coincidence that the fast food chain served their so-called Step-it wearable during the Olympics and the summer break. The company has been radically reinventing itself for years now, though the payoff remains uncertain. For the last few years, the chain has been branding the Happy Meal as a much healthier option, introducing fresh fruit and vegetables to the menu.According to McDonald’s Canada Senior Marketing Manager, Michelle McIImoyle, "Step-it is in line with McDonald’s general philosophy for Happy Meal toys, which is to make toys that encourage either physical or imagination-based play". She continues, "Physical activity is important to everyone of all ages. We very much support children's well-being". Let’s put this in retrospect: there are 539 calories in a McDonald's Happy Meal, meaning that the average 8-years-old would have to walk for 300 minutes to burn it off.In their latest company profile, the fast food chain aims “to become a modern, progressive burger company”. The Fitbit-inspired wearable is just one way to go. What would you consider an appropriate health toy for the restaurant chain?Sources: CityNews, Wareable. [post_title] => Fitness Tracker to Make Happy Meal Healthier [post_excerpt] => McDonald’s provided their Happy Meals with a high-tech activity tracker toy. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => power-happy-meal [to_ping] => [pinged] => https://nextnature.net/2016/08/the-olympic-abyss/ [post_modified] => 2016-08-29 22:28:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-08-29 20:28:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=65507 [menu_order] => 93 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 65347 [post_author] => 873 [post_date] => 2016-08-16 16:00:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-08-16 14:00:34 [post_content] => As Pokémon Go is currently available in 90 countries over the world, the game is slowly taking over our planet. Nowadays people know more Pokémon than bird or tree species. However, avid players have probably noticed that some of the first generation Pokémon are not obtainable in the game yet.When released, developer Niantic announced that the game was designed for trainers to look for Pokémon in specifically assigned regions around them, making it almost impossible to catch ‘em all. Furthermore, some of the mythical creatures are not included yet. One of these extraterrestrial rarities, Mew, is said to make an appearance soon in the game. Probably Mew is currently residing in a galaxy far away, which makes us wonder: are there any Pokémon in space?Let’s look at the connection between Pokémon, Earth and outer space. In July, a gym was discovered at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which just successfully entered the orbit of Jupiter. Other trainers have spotted a Krabby and Rattata at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. So who knows, perhaps the ISS is the place where to get intergalactic Pokémon like Mew or Mewtwo, the altered clone of Mew.According to NASA, the six crewmembers occupying the International Space Station won't be able to play the game. “Unfortunately, it is not possible for the astronauts to play. While there is a small number of smartphones available on the space station, the crew uses them for science activities, but not for personal use. The smartphones and other mobile devices on station (tablets) also do not have internet connectivity”.A petition to have Pokémon in space is currently going around and will be delivered to NASA. Until then, the astronauts in space can only play the original game as it was released for Nintendo Game Boy in 1996. It surely seems to have entertained a Russian cosmonaut during his 196-day mission in space, who brought his handheld console onboard, complete with a game of Tetris.Source: Mashable. Image: EGM [post_title] => Are There Pokémon on the Moon? [post_excerpt] => Pokémon Go is slowly taking over our planet. People know more Pokémon than bird or tree species. However, avid players will have noticed that some of the first-gen Pokémon are not available in the game yet. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => are-there-pokemon-on-the-moon [to_ping] => [pinged] => https://nextnature.net/2016/08/pokemon-go-virtual-property/ [post_modified] => 2016-08-17 12:07:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-08-17 10:07:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=65347 [menu_order] => 119 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 65085 [post_author] => 873 [post_date] => 2016-07-26 16:04:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-07-26 14:04:18 [post_content] => What was your childhood dream for the future? Many kids fantasize about becoming princesses, astronauts, or maybe superheroes. As part of the Disney Accelerator program, UK startup Open Bionics, is helping children in need for bionic hands. With Iron Man, Frozen, or Star Wars-themed prosthetics, their fantasies become reality.According to Amputee Coalition, in the US alone nearly two million people live with limb loss, with a yearly count of 185.000 amputations. The costs for artificial limbs can go up to 100.000 US dollars. By using open-sourced software and robotic sensors, Open Bionics succeeded in lowering the production costs of prosthetics. Through these technologies, the company is able to produce faster and for less money. Furthermore, the lighter material makes the prosthetic more comfortable to wear.Open Bionics website says: “Now kids can get excited about their prosthetics. They won’t have to do boring physical therapy; they’ll train to become heroes. They’re not just getting medical devices, they’re getting bionic hands inspired by their favorite characters". The project received its funding from the Disney Accelerator, the foundation by Walt Disney that supports technological innovators pursuing their new media dreams. Like in this case, helping children embody their favorite characters.Source: The Independent [post_title] => Disney-Themed Prosthetics for Children [post_excerpt] => Open Bionics is helping children in need for bionic hands. With Iron Man, Frozen, or Star Wars-themed prosthetics, their fantasies become reality. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => disney-themed-prosthetics-children [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-08-03 10:13:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-08-03 08:13:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=65085 [menu_order] => 148 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 ))[post_count] => 10 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 115799 [post_author] => 2173 [post_date] => 2019-08-13 13:00:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-13 12:00:59 [post_content] =>

The rise of artificial intelligence has brought us more advanced toys. If AI Barbie and her talking robotic friends are going to raise our kids, what would their parenting style be like?

In the nineties, Tamagotchi was hugely popular amongst kids; the egg-shaped key chain wasn’t to be let out of your sight, ever. Four simple buttons gave millions of children worldwide the ability to feed snacks and attention to their pixelated pet, so as to keep it from dying a tragic, virtual death.

The rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning and face, emotion and voice recognition technologies, has advanced our robotic friends in a very significant way. It might feel awkward for you to confide in Pepper, Zora, Hello Barbie, Alice, Sam, Kayla, iCat, Paro or Robear, but for some kids, this is their daily reality.

New ways of communicating 

Because of the use in healthcare and education, the ethical debate about robotic companionship has existed for quite some time. Society has debated the social value of interactive robotic contact. Some people feel that robots can only simulate understanding and empathy and are therefore only second-best to real human contact. There are also worries about the way social robots change human communication. If our companions do not have a consciousness, this could make us humans less social. Some even say that kids commandeering Alexa could lead to them talking in the same way to their parents.

Others point to the valuable communication that social robots could stimulate. An example is robots that are used to help autistic kids make contact with other people. But we need different frameworks and categories to understand these new forms of interaction. As a study has confirmed, kids categorize their robotic friends somewhere in the range between ‘alive’ and ‘not alive’.

Strikingly, there is no such debate regarding smart toys - except some debates about safety concerns - even though the Internet of Toys is an emerging market that can heavily influence the identity development and socialisation of young kids.

Big Barbie is judging you

The media exhaustively warns against smart Barbies that can be hacked, can be listened into, can be used to scrape data and to record videos. But parents themselves can not be let off the hook. Some parents are spying on their kids 24/7 with their own version of smart toys, with tracking apps or teddy bears with built-in cameras. Pedagogues are worried that kids are not able to explore their boundaries anymore or that they no longer dare to make mistakes because they always feel like their parents are watching them.

The current debate about smart toys is mostly focused on privacy. ‘Big Barbie is watching you’ is on our radar, but what about ‘Big Barbie is judging you’?

Kid: "I feel shy trying to make new friends."

Barbie: "Feeling shy is nothing to feel bad about. Just remember this, you made friends with me right away.”

Barbie seems to have distinct ideas about friendship, which proposes the question about which other subjects she might have (strong) opinions. What would she for example answer if you would ask her if she is religious? Or more importantly, what do the programmers think that AI Barbie should answer when a kid asks her if she is religious?

The responses that have been programmed into smart toys indirectly contain value judgments about the world surrounding us. These judgments influence the way in which kids develop their identities. In May of 2018, Stefania Druga presented the first results of her study ‘My Doll Says It’s OK: Voice-Enabled Toy Influences Children’s Moral Decisions’. The most important conclusion: smart toys have more influence on the moral choices of children than humans do. And, they change the way children play, fantasize and work together.

If parents buy an AI Barbie or AI Cayla, they are not just bringing a talking doll into their homes – they will have to deal with an AI guide to parenting too. They need to learn to cooperate and co-educate with it. Are the pre-programmed beliefs about education pedagogically justifiable and who creates them?

Parenting is something everyone has an opinion about. Currently, there’s a large debate about so-called ‘curling parents’. These are parents – just like in the sport of Curling– that sweep away all obstacles for their kids. Pedagogues are afraid that this does not allow children to develop into resilient adults that are able to deal with friction. If friction is so essential to our development, we might also need smart toys that contradict us now and then.

Authoritarian or laissez-faire

We do not know a lot yet about what parental guidelines are programmed into smart toys and the way in which AI intervenes in the relationship between parents and their children. It is important to further research this, to get an idea of how we want smart toys to function. This also means that we have to be aware that smart toys reflect the values, judgements and stakes from the world it is developed in.

Together with Stefania Druga, the Creative Learning Lab of Waag and SETUP organized a hackathon to design several provotypes (provoking prototypes). We programmed AI toys with different styles of upbringing and explored if it was possible to give kids space for a freer, more creative way of playing. How predictable is AI Barbie and will she be more of an authoritarian or more laissez-faire? By developing possible scenarios and discussing different perspectives with researchers, the event kickstarted a lively dialogue about smart toys, and showed that there is much more to discuss.

An important realization is that when we talk about for example human-robot friendships, we think of these concepts in holistic terms. This limits us from thinking about which aspects of friendship AI or smart toys can replace, which does not mean that they replace friendship completely. What aspects we can and want to replace is a question worth exploring. After all, the AI guide to parenting is something we will have to develop together, not something we should leave up to toy manufacturers alone.

The AI AI Barbie project is a collaboration between SETUP and Waag.

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