Since she was first introduced in 1959, Barbie has had many incarnations, including stints as an astronaut, a rapper and the president of the United States. And now, at age 58, she’s a hologram.
Wired explained that Hello Barbie Hologram, which will be arriving in stores late this summer and is expected to cost less than $300, is a small box containing an animated projection of Barbie that responds to voice commands. It combines motion-capture animation with Amazon Echo-style voice interactions.
A screen in the top of the box projects an image of Barbie onto a translucent wedge, using a 2D projection of a 3D animation. The phrase “Hello Barbie” brings the projection to life, and from there, you can ask Barbie to change her appearance, switch outfits, set an alarm, act as a nightlight or even choreograph her dance routines. And if you ask Barbie the weather when it’s raining, holographic cats and dogs fall from the sky.
While the Hello Barbie Hologram’s web-connected mic raises the same privacy concerns as other smart home speakers, Mattel insists that, unlike the Echo and Google Home, Barbie doesn’t save recordings to its servers. And the holo-box uses 256-bit encryption to shuttle voice queries to the cloud in a system designed to meet the Federal Trade Commission’s requirements outlined in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule. So, parents will be able to see all the data the system collects.
Hopefully, the voice command issues that plagued the Hello Barbie Dreamhouse during the holidays won’t affect the Hello Barbie Hologram. So far, the only prototype of it appears in Mattel’s booth at the American International Toy Fair in New York, but it’s just a representation of what the toy looks like — the voice-control features aren’t activated. Mattel did show a big-screen canned demo of how holo-Barbie will respond to spoken commands.