Less than a year after the toymaker Mattel launched a AI-powered baby monitor called Aristotle, the company announced that it will table its controversial plans for the product after a petition from privacy and children’s health advocates gained traction.
Aristotle was supposed to be an Amazon Alexa for kids crossed with a smart baby monitor. It was designed to do things like soothe a child’s cries, answer their questions about the world, and even read bedtime stories–and it would learn over time from the child’s behavior. In essence, it was an AI that could act as an extra parent in the home.
But the device’s presence in kids’ bedrooms raised serious concerns from privacy advocates about data collection, as well as questions about how interacting with such a device could impact a toddler’s development. Two senators contacted Mattel with their concerns, and a petition against the product garnered 15,000 signatures.
Finally, after months of growing controversy, today Mattel said in a statement to The Washington Post that it has decided not to move forward with the product because it did not “fully align with Mattel’s new technology strategy.”
It’s one of the first AI-powered products to have been shelved due to concerns over data and privacy, and an example of how a compelling design idea can be undercut by shoddy execution when it comes to privacy (Aristotle was an honoree in Co.Design‘s annual Innovation By Design awards). Its demise is a cautionary tale for tech companies racing to put cameras and microphones into our homes. While Google, Amazon, and Apple battle it out in the voice assistant wars–including making those assistants easier for kids to use–it’s clear that children’s rooms are off limits.KS