Real Time Conversations with Barbie Demonstrate Potential of Interactive Communication with Our Simulated Manikins

patient communication simulation

I predict that one day in the near future, our healthcare simulation manikins will talk back to us automatically, without needing a clinical instructor to act as the voice of the patient. Think I watch too many sci-fi movies? Check out this NY Times article on a Wi-Fi Barbie “with the soul of Siri”, which enables children playing with the toy to speak with Barbie and receive cloud-based interactive, memory-supported conversations.

“Founded in 2011, ToyTalk already produces popular animated conversational apps — among them the Winston Show and SpeakaZoo — that encourage young children to engage in complex dialogue with a menagerie of make-believe characters. Now the company’s technology, originally designed for two-dimensional characters on-screen, is poised to power tangible playthings that children hold in their hands.

This fall, Mattel plans to introduce Hello Barbie, a Wi-Fi enabled version of the iconic doll, which uses ToyTalk’s system to analyze a child’s speech and produce relevant responses.



To develop a system that could both understand a child’s comments and say something engaging back, the company built its own platform to process spoken language — one tailored to the pitch of children’s voices, their prosody and vocabulary. Now, for instance, when a child says “totes jelly” to a ToyTalk app, the language processor understands the phrase actually means: “I’m totally jealous.””

Besides carrying on a conversation, Hello Barbie can play games and tell jokes and stories. Throughout it all, Barbie will be picking up on likes and dislikes, remembering to use what she’s learned in future conversations. That’s right—not only can Barbie now be your best friend, she’s probably a better listener than most of your real friends, too!”

Why couldn’t this same technology be adopted for healthcare-patient engagements, offering learners the opportunity to engage with simulated patients without the need for a clinical educator (of the same age and gender)?

Read the full NY Times article A Wi-Fi Barbie Doll With the Soul of Siri


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