Robot toymaker Robosen has debuted a new Buzz Lightyear toy based on the recent Disney and Pixar film built with conversational AI and voice recognition to interact with children. The robot incorporates natural language understanding to detect when it is addressed and respond like the character from the film, though the AI makes it seem more like the Toy Story action figure that comes to life when no humans are around. The $650 robot is available for pre-order and will arrive next spring (when its price will rise to $800).
You can see an example of the conversation in this promotional video.
Kids hoping for long discussions with Buzz may be disappointed as the conversational AI is somewhat limited compared to Alexa or Google Assistant. Even short conversations mark a notable upgrade from just audio recordings common in toys going back to the pull-string cowboys like Woody. The new toy does come with plenty of dialogue and sound clips from the Lightyear film too, but the robot’s AI and connected mobile app for programming its movements make it more than just the classic lump of plastic.
“Robosen’s Buzz Lightyear is a smart conversational, interactive, programmable, and ultra-authentic Space Ranger robot, featuring a genuine combination of science, engineering, and artistry,” Robosen explained in its announcement. “Robosen’s intelligent conversation system brings Buzz Lightyear to life by enabling speech recognition and lightning-fast responses. Converse with him easily through ambiguous voice and semantic recognition technology without the need to recall specific command words for an immersive interactive experience like no other. No matter how heavy the action gets, he’ll never be at a loss for words!”
Buzz joins the stable of child-friendly AI devices as companies discover new ways to connect conversational AI and kids. For instance, Japanese toy maker Takara Tomy’s Coemo device offers a child’s smart speaker that can synthesize a parent’s voice to read stories, while children’s bedtime robot Snorble raised $10 million to apply AI to help kids sleep. Amazon has tested its own child-friendly uses for Alexa, including the Echo Dot Kids Edition and Alexa-enabled toys like the KidKraft Kitchen. And Disney licensing Robosen hasn’t stopped it from developing a Disney-branded AI to operate on Alexa as well.