Google patent details Amazon Echo-style smart toys

Voice-activated teddy bears sounds more creepy than cute

If you thought the idea of barking commands into a cylindrical black box to order supplies from Amazon was strange, get a load of what Google may be planning for the next generation of internet-connected smart toys.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (via Engadget) published a patent application from Google late last week entitled "Agent Interfaces for Interactive Electronics that Support Social Cues," which could wind up being little more than child's play.

Effectively an internet-connected, voice-activated device not unlike Amazon Echo, the Google patent describes "an anthropomorphic device, perhaps in the form factor of a doll or toy, may be configured to control one or more media devices."

Unlike Echo, such smart toys could be configured to respond to movement through the use of a camera, as well as spoken words or phrases from a microphone attached to the head of the device.

Attractive user interfaces

Naturally, Google's device would be able to communicate with a server on its network, allowing the smart toy to transmit commands to other connected media devices so it's as functional as it is cute.

"Cute" is definitely what Google seems to be going for here, describing the device as an "attractive user interface" for young children, thanks to its disguise as "cartoonish dolls or toys," although "other physical appearances" are also at least hinted at.

Taking it one step further, the smart toy could "express curiosity, (it) may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm" in response to a child's commands, which certainly sounds like the beginning of a bad horror movie to us.

That's exactly how an attorney for Big Brother Watch described potential privacy concerns with the smart toys to BBC last week, but it's unclear what, if anything, Google engineers may have done since the original patent filing in 2012 to address them.