On March 3, 2005, ABC Online ran an Associated Press story about the "Teddy" prototype on display at Microsoft.
Slashdot.org also has a discussion about this story
On the surface, it's a baby monitor on Steroids, but as any imaginative soul can see from reading the article, there are a number of far more sinister implications afoot.
The teddy bear sitting in the corner of the child's room might look normal, until his head starts following the kid around using a face recognition program, perhaps also allowing a parent talk to the child through a special phone, or monitor the child via a camera and wireless Internet connection.
My mind began to whirl with ideas. How would this change the way we parent? How can something like this be abused? How would controlling parents use a device like this? How would something like this change our society?
What kinds of children will we be dealing with when parents use devices like this in place of their actual physical presence, or for pervasive monitoring?
A few years ago I saw a Mocumentary from the BBC that postulated what the future might hold, and one of the segments depicted a mother planting a tracking device in her daughter's arm that was part of a birth control implant, thus giving the mother the ability to track the daughter's motions 24/7.
So I propose a contest. Write a story involving "Teddy". Make it positive, negative, hopeful or pessimistic. Encase the hardware in different shells if you like (A clown or a Jack in the box spring to mind). Is it a gift from parent to child? Is a workaholic parent using it to "Spend time with the kids" while at the office? Is an obsessive individual or a stalker using it to monitor their prey? Is it being used as nothing more than a cuddly baby monitor, sort of a remote control Teddy Ruxpin?
Is the child's sense of "What's alive" being messed with? Does the distinction between human and machine blur, and what is the result?
Ask and or answer any of these questions.
Categories, judging criteria and prizes will be determined later. For now, just post your ideas and links to your stories.
Feel free to spread the word about this little contest, and get others involved. The topic fascinates me, and I'm intersted in reading what other people have to say about it.
By ALLISON LINN
The Associated Press
REDMOND, Wash. Mar 2, 2005 -- The teddy bear sitting in the corner of the child's room might look normal, until his head starts following the kid around using a face recognition program, perhaps also allowing a parent talk to the child through a special phone, or monitor the child via a camera and wireless Internet connection.
The plush prototype, on display at Microsoft Corp.'s annual gadget showcase Wednesday, is one of several ideas researchers have for robots. The idea is to create a virtual being that can visit the neighboring cubicle for a live telephone chat even as its owner is traveling thousands of miles away, or let the plumber into the house while its owner enjoys a pleasant afternoon in the sun.
Plenty of companies are already building robots for the work place, and toy companies have created plush dolls that know a child's name or can incorporate other personal information. But Steven Bathiche, a research and development program manager with Redmond-based Microsoft, said his company's projects go further.
"The vision behind this is to be two places at once," Bathiche said.
The "Teddy" project was one of about 150 projects on display at Microsoft's TechFest, a two-day event that gives Microsoft's worldwide team of researchers the chance to show product developers their sometimes far-flung creations, and perhaps find a fit for the projects in a future, marketable product.
TechFest opened Wednesday, mainly to full-time Microsoft employees. The company expected about 6,000 to attend, including Chairman Bill Gates and other executives. A few government officials, academics and journalists also were allowed.
Raman Sarin, a Microsoft development engineer, was just looking for a way to learn more about programming smart phones when he decided to create a program to monitor traffic a constant complaint in the car-clogged Seattle area. The result is SmartPhlow, a program that not only monitors current traffic patterns but also uses real-time and archived data to predict when the next backup might occur.