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Supertoy: A teddy bear that talks back

Think of it as Siri meets Teddy Ruxpin. A robotics company in the U.K. has created a "smart" teddy bear that can answer questions, make phone calls, and read bedtime stories.


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 currently seeking funding on Kickstarter that uses virtual-assistant-style software to hold real conversations. 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 7 a.m."

Sleep -- "Play rain effect for 25 minutes."

Read -- "Read me a bedtime story."

Play -- "Play classic FM radio."

Remind -- "Remind me to water the plants at 5 p.m."

Phone -- "Phone Chris."

Mail -- "Send an e-mail 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 is also developing "role play" so 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 42 pounds ($65) will get you your very own Supertoy, with free shipping anywhere in the world and an estimated delivery date of December -- just in time for the holidays.

(Source: Crave Australia)