If you haven’t seen the 80s cult classic horror film Chucky, allow me to be your professor in crappy (but awesome) cinema. Chucky is a movie that revolves around a murdering sentient doll that had a serial killer’s soul transferred into it via a voodoo ritual. That’s as 80s as a premise could be. The doll not only murders a slew of people for tickles and giggles, but it does so with the campiest, kitschiest one-liners in the history of cinema. Some stand-out gems are: [after killing Britney Spears] "Oops, I did it again!" and [breaks down a door Shining style and pokes his head in] “You know, I can’t think of a thing to say. F*ck it!” [continues to break the door down] (From IMDB). More recently we’ve seen movies featuring Annabelle, a possessed doll that enacts various acts of violence on the family that owns it. I won’t go into too much detail as this movie is relatively new and I wouldn’t want to taint the jump scares in it. Let’s just say this movie also involves a doll that walks, talks and murders a bit on the side. The thing is that both of these murderous inanimate objects are works of fiction, born of some sick writer’s head and recorded on celluloid for posterity’s sake. Yeah, Google isn’t really cool with the fictional nature of that so they recently filed a patent for an autonomous, sentient smart doll. FINE. Plush teddy bear and rabbit.
Why is this creepy?
Well this might take a minute so pull up a chair….or you can stand on your head propped against the wall like you are right now….The creepiness of this patent has many, many layers. First and most obvious is the fact that you will purchase a toy for your children that is internet enabled, has integrated microphones and dual cameras. So any tech savvy pervo can gain access to your child sleeping, eating and playing, and in the terrifying scenario in which your child becomes unbelievably attached to the plush abomination inadvertently carrying it everywhere like a security blanket, aforementioned pervo will have unlimited access to yours, and your child’s lives. That’s the worst case scenario right? Not really, there are actually websites dedicated to streaming Wi-Fi security cams, security cams, which their main function is security, are hacked and open for all to see. What makes you think that a Wi-Fi teddy bear or bunny rabbit would be safe?
It gets worse
According to Google’s patent, the toys will be “anthropomorphic” as in looking (and acting) human. It said in the documents that the stuffed animal with be able to move its head towards the person talking to it, show a range of emotions, including interest, boredom and surprise and even be able to make distinct facial expressions. Quick question Google: when did animatronics become anthropomorphic? Oh, it will have “human-like facial expressions” What?!!! It’s said that a “trigger” will activate them and then they will turn their head towards the individual interacting with them reacting to speech, movement and even body language. Has anyone at Google played 5 Nights at Freddie’s? This is what happens when robots are autonomous (video below).
It gets worse and worse still
Google is designing this so it’s appealing even for the youngest member of the family to interact with it. The youngest members of your family are being encouraged by Google to play with a device that has three different ways to record them, let that seep in. But it gets worse. You will have the option to use the bunny rabbit or teddy bear to control all of your smart devices in your home. That includes climate control, media devices, even blinds. So this stuffed animal could pull a HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, where (in very, very simplistic terms) a deep space ship’s A.I. (HAL) kills off almost everyone on the ship, because they would jeopardize the mission that HAL, the space ship and its crew was tasked with. Imagine sitting with your cute little family watching a DVD as the temperature in your home slowly rises to get your blood flowing. All of a sudden the carbon monoxide sensors get switched off, the shades get shut tightly, and the smart-locks you installed secure the doors with a muted “ka-chunk”. Eventually your entire family falls into a deep carbon monoxide poisoned sleep as “Let it go!” from the movie Frozen plays in the background. Google-Bear stands up and cackles over your cold bodies. It could happen.
It’s the all seeing all knowing Google-Bear
Google knows all, sees all, even the darkest of our desires and perversion (It knows that you like to watch pretty girls getting hit in the face with pies you weirdo). So what makes you think that an autonomous robot plush toy won’t tap into that bottomless well of information? It’s going to be Wi-Fi enabled, and will know EVERYTHING. On the other hand, it’s a little comforting that knowledge is a tool and if you don’t know how to use a tool then it’s not really - well, utilitarian. Yeah, well let me help you feel a bit more disquieted. Google knows how to use knowledge. It uses it to make ads more effective (utilizing your browsing preferences and online behavior) to improve their products, to let their partners know how visitors are engaging their websites and to meet their legal duties, all this information is taken directly from Google’s own FAQs. Their legal duties include turning over information if it’s pertinent to a Federal investigation, without the protection of the 4th Amendment (that protects against seizures and unreasonable searches). Trust me when I say Google wants to keep a better relationship with the Government than with you. Rest (un)assured that preservation of this relationship will be just as important to Google-Bear or Google-Bunny.
So, are you looking forward to seeing Google’s new smart doll? Let me know in the comment section below.