Google has published a patent that suggests it is developing smart internet connected toys that would listen to instructions and follow voice commands from home owners to do tasks around the house. For e.g., the toys could switch lights on and off or turn on household appliances by a simple vocal command.
The patents inventor is Richard Wayne DeVaul, whose job title is "director of rapid evaluation and mad science" at Google X lab. The patent states that the internet connected toys would come with inbuilt sensors like cameras, microphones, speakers, and motors as well as a wireless connection to the internet. The toys would have a trigger word that would cause them to wake up and turn their gaze towards the person addressing them and see if they are making eye contact while talking. The patent suggests that the smart device could respond by speaking back as well as expressing "human-like" expressions of interest, surprise or boredom. "To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head and/or focus its gaze on the user," Mr DeVaul wrote. "To express curiosity, [it] may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm."
The patent says that the toys could be used to control a wide range of devices, from televisions and DVD players to home thermostats, motorised window curtains and lights. It also says that the smart internet connected toys could listen in to devices and record conversations which has triggered privacy concerns. Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, said, 'When those devices are aimed specifically at children, then for many this will step over the creepy line. Children should be able to play in private and shouldn't have to fear this sort of passive invasion of their privacy. It is simply unnecessary.' A Google spokeswoman was unable to say whether this was a product the firm might develop and sell. "We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with," she said. "Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don't. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications," she added.
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