Featured Post

Ted — not the movie

Will parents warm up to sensors, monitors, and other gadgets to keep track of their kids if they are wrapped up in a cute teddy bear?
Boxing robots in action at the Israel RoboCup championship (Courtesy)
Boxing robots in action at the Israel RoboCup championship (Courtesy)

A recent article on the Yahoo tech website (which is an excellent source of tech information, along with Engadget and TechCrunch) reviews a patent that was submitted by Google some time ago for, effectively, a smart teddy bear. The patent speaks to technology that would enable a stuffed animal to turn its head and listen, and respond appropriately. The patent includes the ability to transmit commands to smart home devices. So imagine that the child playing with the teddy bear states that he or she is cold. That could be enough to automatically raise the temperature in the house, or at the very least send an SMS and/or email to the parent to inform them of the child’s status.

Such a stuffed animal could have potentially hundreds of sensors that could identify even more things than humans are typically aware of. For example, the teddy bear could potentially have a sensor that detects certain anomalies in the breath of the child playing with it. The teddy bear could thereby identify a case of poisoning before any adult was aware of it. Imagine getting an SMS from your child’s stuffed animal stating that the child had apparently (accidentally) swallowed bleach. This would literally save a child’s life. Not bad for a stuffed animal.

There was a movie from a number of years ago, called “The Last Mimzy (2007)“. It was based on a science fiction story that I had actually read as a child. The details are not important. What is important is that at the center of the story is a smart teddy bear that has been sent back in time to deliver a message to the scientists of the present day. During the interaction with the teddy bear, a sample from the bear is analyzed, even to the point of putting it under an electron microscope (which can be used to see incredibly small structures). The scientists doing the analysis are shocked to see a cellular structure (as if the teddy bear was alive) and on the nucleus of the cells of this teddy bear, the logo “Intel inside” was clearly evident.

Understandably, the next moment in the movie involves the scientists speaking to a nano specialist from Intel who states that this is still “a dream stage” technology. I think it is now clear how much this present story resonates with anyone who has seen the movie. How long will it be until teddy bears are grown as virtual living entities, which include in their DNA [?] all of the sensory capability that is desired.

there are many detractors related to the degree to which we surround ourselves with technology. The day is definitely coming when all of my Marvel action figures will be aware of their surroundings and transmit information to where ever I designate. This invisible network will become so pervasive that people will simply not care about it. This reminds me of a famous quote that states “the greatest trick of all of Satan was convincing the world that he did not exist“.

It’s a simple reality that those things that effectively blend into our backgrounds so as to be beyond regular perception, tend to become a non-issue. For example, until somebody raises the issue of radio waves from all of our mobile phones, most people do not take this issue into consideration when choosing between an Android Nexus 5 versus the latest iPhone. When GPS capabilities are part of the fibers that make up our clothing, it will no longer be a question of whether we should tag our children so as not to lose them. If, G-d forbid, a child goes missing, it will only be necessary to load the GPS app onto the parents’ mobile phone and then activate it to locate the child. Once again, these type of technologies will be so pervasive that no one will have the energy or time to fight about them anymore.

There is a famous African quote that it takes a village to raise a child. When all of the child’s stuffed animals and play clothes are observing and even guiding the child through a safe path to enjoyment and learning, we will for all intents and purposes achieve the benefits of a digital village.

Thanks for listening

About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.
Related Topics
Related Posts