The creepy part is not a doll that listens, it is the manufacturer listening as well.
Not if you understand the technology, because you know that in order to do the first, it ALSO has to do the second.
It doesn't require a super computer to do voice recognition, as demonstrated by the $75 retail price (which would cover a few years of server-side processing, unless the article failed to mention a mandatory subscription) and a game like There Came An Echo. My guess is that a modern ARM processor would be able to handle it just fine. If the processing would drain the battery of the doll too quickly, it could be done in an in-home base station (plug server, for example) that communicates over local WiFi. There are advantages to doing the processing on a central server, but I see no reason to claim it is not feasible to do it locally.
The other way it can be phrased, which is more accurate and less creepy, is to say a SERVER processes the audio data in order to form a response. That's not creepy; it's necessary - it says nothing about humans or "the company" (whatever that means) listening in.
How I imagine it will work is that the large amount of data coming in from all the dolls in the field will be used to improve both the voice recognition and the dolls' responses. For that purpose, they would build a big data set that proposed algorithm tweaks can be tested against. Collecting this data from customers rather than dedicated test sessions is cheaper, allows for quicker iteration cycles and produces much larger data sets, which generally improves the results.
The question is whether the stored data will be anonymized early and properly or whether it will be possible to connect the stored data to a specific doll. Even if they would have no intention to violate anyone's privacy, I wouldn't trust them to get this right for a talking doll, when so many institutions dealing with medical data manage to screw it up.
Technology in itself is neither good nor bad, it all depends on how you use it.
Right, so lets not assume anything network connected that requires a server to function is bad. That's what I;m saying.
A completely different concern with an essential server-side component is the same as with always-online games: if the manufacturer pulls the plug, this doll would revert back to being just a plastic doll.
Keep a neutral attitude, and evaluate what it does rather than the scariest thing it MIGHT do.
How would you evaluate it? Even if you have the knowledge to be able to evaluate such a complex process, they wouldn't let you audit their systems.
Even apart from the data collection angle, evaluation is an issue: with a book, a parent can have a quick look at it to check whether its content is something they want their children exposed to. With an interactive online service, how the doll behaves a year from now might be different from how it behaves today. What to do if Barbie suddenly starts begging her owner for a horse or a boyfriend?
I'm not saying the potential for misuse means no-one should buy this doll, that's for every individual parent to decide. What I'm objecting to is being called a luddite over what I think are very valid concerns.
Embracing every new development out of love for technology
It's less wrong because it advances, instead of retards, humanity. The only real enemy is chaos and stagnation.
I generally consider myself progressive, but I don't consider every new thing desirable just because it hasn't been done before.