Toy manufacturer Mattel has canceled a smart speaker geared toward children that it had announced at CES in January, according to the Washington Post.
The planned device had drawn the attention of public officials as well as child health advocates, who raised both privacy and development concerns about the smart speaker.
The device, named Aristotle, was set to include a number of child- and parent-oriented features. Mattel planned to develop a proprietary voice assistant for the device that would use natural language processing and artificial intelligence (AI) to interpret what kids said to the device and learn from each interaction. Aristotle was also going to work as a baby monitor for younger children, transmitting both audio and video to parents, and Mattel had planned to use AI to give it the ability to turn on a nightlight to soothe a crying baby automatically. And it was meant to help with homework for older children as well.
The smart speaker’s cancellation says a few things about the way the market is evolving, and can provide lessons to other device developers.
- Mattel canceled the device due to criticism on privacy and child development grounds. With a device specifically aimed at children under 13, maintaining data securely is a paramount concern, and while Mattel claimed that all data collected would be kept in compliance with COPPA and HIPPA, some — including two members of Congress — were disquieted by the way the smart speaker would learn about the children it interacted with. And child development experts were worried that it could have led parents to pay less attention to their children.
- This has implications for other companies, especially Google, that are looking to position smart speakers as ideal tools for children. At Google’s event last week, the company devoted a segment of its Google Home presentation to the announcement of a new set of kid-oriented learning and entertainment voice apps. Amazon has also developed child-specific voice apps and development frameworks for its Alexa voice assistant. While these are secondary capabilities rather than the primary focus of the devices, they could lead to the same criticism should they become more popular and feature-rich.
- And security is a concern for all smart devices, but especially those with cameras. Amazon designed the Echo Look smart speaker — which features a camera — to go in the bedroom, and beyond concerns about utility, privacy worries are the top reason why people said they were unlikely to buy the device, according to BI Intelligence’s exclusive Tech Adoption survey. Amazon is still trying to convince consumers to put camera-equipped devices all around their homes, but Mattel’s experience shows it could face an uphill battle.
Smart speakers — Amazon’s Echo, for example — are the latest device category poised to take a chunk of our increasingly digital lives. These devices are made primarily for the home and execute a user’s voice commands via an integrated digital assistant. These digital assistants can play music, answer questions, and control other devices within a user’s home, among other things.
The central question for this new product category is not when they will take off, but which devices will rise to the top. To answer this question, BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, surveyed our leading-edge consumer panel, gathering exclusive data on Amazon’s recently released Echo Show and Echo Look, as well as Apple’s HomePod.
Peter Newman, research analyst for BI Intelligence, has put together a Smart Speaker report that analyzes the market potential of the Echo Look, Echo Show, and HomePod. Using exclusive survey data, this report evaluates each device’s potential for adoption based on four criteria: awareness, excitement, usefulness, and purchase intent. Finally, the report draws some inferences from our data about the direction the smart speaker market could take from here.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
- Amazon’s new Echo Show is the big winner — it has mass-market appeal and looks like it will take off. The combination of usefulness and excitement will drive consumers to buy the Echo Show. The Echo Look, though, seems like it will struggle to attract that same level of interest.
- Apple’s HomePod looks likely to find a place in the smart speaker market but won’t dominate its space like the iPhone or iPad did.
- The smart speaker market will evolve rapidly in the next few years, with more devices featuring screens, a variety of more focused products emerging, and eventually, the voice assistant moving beyond the smart speaker.
In full, the report:
- Showcases exclusive survey data on initial consumer reactions to the Echo Look, Echo Show, and HomePod.
- Highlights the aims and strategies of major players in the smart speaker market.
- Provides analysis on the direction this nascent market will take and the opportunity for companies considering a move into the space.
You can also purchase and download the full report from our research store.