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Have you ever thought to yourself, "Gee, how could someone combine the worst elements of Google Glass and Teddy Ruxpin into one creepy, privacy-chilling, cuddly bundle of technological horror?"
Dream no more! A patent application was recently published in which Google (naturally) applied for a patent on "[a]n anthropomorphic device, perhaps in the form factor of a doll or toy" that could "be configured to control one or more media devices."
Now Chucky is going to hog the remote, too!
The patent application details how the stuffed animal, through the use of motors, can process things like hand gestures or voice commands, "aim its gaze at the source of the social cue," and then transmit that command to a media device.
How would that work in practice? You'd be sitting on the couch next to dear Teddy, when you say, to no one in particular, "I'd really like to watch 'Poltergeist' right now." Teddy's eyes turn from a dead, coal black to a fiery red, his head slowly swivels toward you, and the TV suddenly turns on.
Is that what you're thinking, Google? 'Cause that's what we're thinking over here.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Even if your concerns about toys coming to life and murdering you in your sleep are fictitious (and the only way we get to sleep every night is by repeating to ourselves that they are), the privacy concerns are very real, indeed.
Google's Stuffed Unspeakable Terror will be connected to the Internet, making it one of the myriad "Internet of Things" in your home that's constantly transmitting data somewhere else. One hopes that, because it's Google, they take privacy more seriously than, say, the makers of an Internet-connected light bulb, but as with Google Glass and Xbox Kinect, the issue isn't that hackers might use the Snuggle bear to get into your home network, but that you've let Google into your home, to record ... well, who knows what it will record?
According to the patent application, the "anthropomorphic device" will also have cameras in it. With the state of electronic surveillance being what it is, what would prevent the U.S. Attorney from figuring out a way to use Snuggle Bear as a surveillance mechanism? And what prevents the NSA from finding a way to capture these data and amass portraits of the intimate lives of every American?
Thanks a lot, Snuggle Bear.
The project reportedly comes out of a Google prototype group that tests "moonshots" -- secretive, long-term projects that count among their members Google Glass and Google's self-driving car. As a result, it's not certain that Google's version of Freddy Fazbear will ever see the light of day.
Until then, it will just be the stuff of dreams. Or, more likely, nightmares.