Consumers may have been slow to adopt smart home technology, but that’s not the case for Barbie. At the recent New York Toy Fair, Mattel unveiled a newly upgraded – and now tech-enabled – Dreamhouse for its iconic doll. The house lets kids control its various elements – from the lights to the elevator to other appliances – and even the music! – using voice commands.
The $299 (yikes!) play house for Barbie and her friends is the latest addition to the Hello Barbie line of products. Like the somewhat controversial Internet-connected doll, which privacy advocates once dubbed “creepy and eavesdropping,” the Hello Barbie Dreamhouse is also Wi-Fi connected. Developed in partnership with ToyTalk, the Dreamhouse uses the startup’s voice recognition technology, like the Hello Barbie doll itself.
Similar to voice assistants like Siri or Amazon Alexa, the house responds to kids’ voice commands in order to take actions, like turning on lights that can be customized with various color schemes, or turning on the shower when it’s time for Barbie to get ready for school.
To interact with the house, kids say things like “Hello Dreamhouse, bring the elevator down,” “Hello Dreamhouse, turn the bedroom lights on” or “Hello Dreamhouse, turn the bedroom lights blue.”
The house chimes brightly to indicate that it’s listening, then again when it responds to the request.
Image credits: Toyland
The commands don’t necessarily have to be about taking explicit actions, however. As demoed by Mattel at the Toy Fair, the house also responded to broader commands, like “it’s time for school” by answering in Barbie’s voice.
“We’d better get going!,” the house answers, “shower’s on!” The sound of running water is then heard and the shower lights up. Or, when asked to make pancakes for breakfast, the house turns on Barbie’s stove.
The Hello Barbie Dreamhouse also comes with three pre-set modes, “hangout mode,” “dance party mode,” and “fun house mode.” Each mode gives kids a different lighting and music scheme and a different dialog in response to their play. For example, in party mode, the lights flash, the chandelier spins, music blasts, and the stairs convert themselves into a slide.
A fourth mode is enabled by way of the Hello Dreamhouse mobile app, which lets kids customize their own lighting and sound scheme – not entirely unlike the mobile apps that work with smart home devices today – like Philips Hue smart bulbs, perhaps.
In addition, when Barbie steps into any room, the house responds thanks to embedded floor switches. The room then comes to life, as lamps turn on or the fireplace roars, for example.
It’s truly a good time to be a kid.
However, if you’re unwilling to cough up $300 for the ultimate party mansion, Barbie has another high-tech toy that’s a little less steeply priced. The Star Light Adventure RC Hoverboard is a small drone that Barbie can actually ride. It’s $60 and, like the Dreamhouse, will launch this fall.