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Connected Dinosaur Brings IBM's Watson to Your Kid's Bedroom

Dan Tynan
Yahoo Tech

It crushed the puny humans on Jeopardy. It’s being used to battle brain cancer, transform college education, and take the pain out of personal shopping. Now IBM’s Watson is coming for our kids, via a 1-foot-tall plastic dinosaur.

cognitoy dinosaur ibm watson

(Photo: Elemental Path/Kickstarter)

At today’s International Toy Fair in New York, a fledgling startup called Elemental Path announced a Kickstarter campaign for its first “cognitive toy.”

Related: 10 Things You Must Know Before You Invest in That Crazy Crowdfunding Scheme

Aimed at 4-to-7-year-olds, the $100 Green CogniToy Dino recognizes speech, remembers kids’ names, asks and answers questions, and tells knock-knock jokes. Under its soft green skin, the CogniToy is powered by Watson, IBM’s cognitive computing and natural language processing technology.

Kids interact with the CogniToy by pressing a button on its belly and talking to it. Ask it a question, and the toy connects via Wi-Fi to the Watson servers, looks up the answer, and responds in a voice that sounds like Yoda with a head cold (the voice could use some work).

Unlike similar AI-based services such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, however, the CogniToy can also quiz your kids, pay attention to their answers, and evolve over time as they demonstrate improved math and language skills.

ibm watson jeopardy

(Photo: Yahoo News)

It is the first toy to tap the brain of Watson, the cognitive technology that famously defeated two challengers in a Jeopardy match in February 2011. Watson is able to understand natural language queries, generate a series of potential answers, and then assign different confidence levels to each answer.

The team behind Elemental Path is one of the winners of IBM’s Watson Mobile Developer Challenge held last June. The company uploaded its own knowledge bases for Watson to search, to ensure that the CogniToy produces answers appropriate for kids ages 4 to 7, and developed its own “friendgine” speech-recognition platform. Right now, the technology can identify only one child at a time; eventually, Elemental Path hopes to be able to identify different kids by their voice and adapt to each, says co-founder Donald Coolidge.

The Kickstarter campaign launches today, with a goal of $50,000. If it’s successful, Elemental Path hopes to begin shipping product to early backers in the fall. Hopeful buyers should keep in mind that this is still just a crowdfunding campaign with a long way to go before it has a finished product.

Will CogniToys ultimately usher in a new genre of connected cognitive toys? Good question. Watson might know the answer, but so far it isn’t talking.

Reach out and touch Dan Tynan at ModFamily1@yahoo.com.