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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Supertoy: a teddy bear who will talk back

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CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(Credit: Supertoy)

A robotics company in the UK has created a "smart" teddy bear that can hold a real conversation.

It was always something of a childhood dream: a teddy bear that would wake up and become a real, live companion. Teddy Ruxpin, the storytelling bear with a cassette player inside, tried. Then there was the somewhat horrifying yet mysteriously wildly popular Furby.

The smartphone, though, seems to be unlocking some previously untapped interactivity potential.

Enter Supertoy: a teddy bear that uses virtual assistant-style software to hold real conversations, currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. Think of it as Siri meets Ted, with the added ability to tell stories, and minus the ruder elements of Ted's personality.

The toy's creators, Ashley Conlan and Karsten Flugge, have a strong background with chatbot AI. Back in 2011, they created Jeannie, a Siri-like virtual assistant for iOS, Android, PC, Mac and Linux. They describe Supertoy as Jeannie's physical baby.

The teddy bear runs off an iOS or Android app. There's a compartment in Teddy's back where you connect your phone to an audio jack. Once you boot up the app, Teddy's microphone will be able to hear what you say and respond, with robotics syncing his mouth to the words. A micro-USB port under Teddy's tail allows you to charge your phone while Teddy is in use.

According to the Kickstarter page, practical uses for Teddy include:

  • Weather — "What's the weather going to be like in San Francisco on Friday?"

  • Time — "What time is it in Tokyo?"

  • Alarms — "Wake me up at 7am."

  • Sleep — "Play rain effect for 25 minutes."

  • Read — "Read me a bed-time story."

  • Play — "Play classic FM radio."

  • Remind — "Remind me to water the plants at 5pm."

  • Phone — "Phone Chris"

  • Mail — "Send an email to Keiko 'sorry I am working late'."

  • News — "Tell me news about Barack Obama"

  • Ask — "What is the capital of Brazil?"

  • Translate — "Translate 'I love you' into Spanish."

  • Spell — "Spell 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious'."

  • Questions — "What is my horoscope for Cancer?"

Teddy also has a learning AI so that it can learn what you like and dislike, and talk about those topics accordingly.

Several features are being developed for the toy in the future, too. At the moment, only Teddy's mouth moves; Conlan and Flugge hope to introduce a wider range of robotics so that teddy can move his arms, legs and head. The pair are also developing "role play" so that Teddy can join in a game as a cowboy, wizard, marine, policeman, footballer or fisherman — all complete with little outfits for the bear.

And he's certainly not pricey, either: a pledge of just £42 (AU$70) will get you your very own Supertoy, with free shipping anywhere in the world, with an estimated delivery date of December — just in time for Christmas.

Head on over to the Supertoy Kickstarter page to learn more and pledge your support.

Add Your Comment 2

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liztoys posted a comment   

teddy superman,cool


JackW2 posted a comment   

The girl in the video creeps me out almost 100,000x more than the bear, which isn't even exaggerated since the bear hardly creeps me out at all.

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