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Google files patent for smart teddy bear that would watch, listen to users

Google files patent for smart teddy bear that would watch, listen to users - image
AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File

TORONTO – If you’re at all squeamish about movies characters like “Chucky,” a recent patent filing from Google could very well be the stuff of nightmares.

The patent filing – published on May 21 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – describes a stuffed toy, such as a bear, that would be able to control devices such as TVs and music players.

The user would relay commands to the toy using voice or gestures, meaning the toy would be equipped with microphones and cameras, hidden within the toy’s ears and eyes.

But here’s where it gets creepy.

Using its sensors and cameras, the cuddly toy would be able to sense your presence and turn its head around to look at you.

“Upon reception or a detection of a social cue, such as movement and/or a spoken word or phrase, the anthropomorphic device may aim its gaze at the source of the social cue,” reads the patent filing.

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Although the patent filing was published last week, Google applied for the patent back in 2010. The patent filing does not necessarily mean that Google plans to release the gadget.

“We hold patents on a variety of ideas – some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t,” Google said in a statement to CNN.

Connected toy controversy

Devices similar to Google’s have recently garnered a lot of controversy among parents and child advocacy groups.

In March, Mattel came under fire after unveiling “Hello Barbie,” a Wi-Fi connected version of the doll that uses a built-in microphone to record children’s conversations and deliver a response once the encrypted audio is transmitted to a cloud server.

READ MORE: Internet of Things has potential but raises security, privacy issues

Many voiced concerns about privacy, citing the doll’s ability to record nearby conversations and even market unfairly to children.

A petition calling on Mattel to cancel the release of Hello Barbie, started by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, has garnered over 36,000 supporters to date.

However, the company behind Hello Barbie’s voice recording technology, ToyTalk, maintains that the doll is not always recording, but requires children to hold down a button on Barbie’s belt buckle to activate the microphone.

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Security experts have long voiced concerns about the so-called Internet of Things – used to describe appliances and gadgets connected to the web – as they are left vulnerable to hacking.

There have been hundreds of cases of hackers spying on users by accessing their webcams, security cameras and gaming consoles. Wi-Fi enabled baby monitors have also been a hot bed for hacker activities.

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