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Mattel thinks again about AI babysitter

Mattel has decided against releasing its AI-powered “babysitter” following concerns over privacy and other implications.

Campaigners said artificial intelligence should not be used in place of real parenting, even if only briefly.

The toy company announced the device in January and said it would sing lullabies and tell bedtime stories.

Mattel said the device was no longer part of its strategy.

At the CES technology show in January, Mattel billed its device – Aristotle – as a major leap in parenting technology.

“Aristotle is designed with a specific purpose and mission: to aid parents and use the most advanced AI-driven technology to make it easier for them to protect, develop, and nurture the most important asset in their home – their children,” the company said.

The device combined home assistant technology and a small camera that worked as a visual baby monitor.

Among its features, Aristotle would automatically “reorder or look for deals and coupons on baby consumables, formula and other baby products when it detects you are likely running low on the specific item”.

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In July, Mattel replaced its chief technology officer with Sven Gerjets, who is understood to have reviewed Aristotle and decided against releasing it.

The company said it had decided not to sell Aristotle “as part of an ongoing effort to deliver the best possible connected product experience to the consumer”.

Mattel had been under pressure to pull the product. The US-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood said: “Aristotle isn’t a nanny, it’s an intruder. Children’s bedrooms should be free of corporate snooping.”

US politicians also had concerns about the data being gathered by the device and asked for more detail about how it would be stored or shared.

Smart devices designed for children are a growing cause of concern for those worried about the as-yet unknown effects such technologies may have on young children’s emotional development.

Another Mattel product, a talking Barbie doll that would remember details from conversations, was poorly received when released early last year.

Read more at bbc.co.uk

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