Barbie has learned how to talk back. Early this year, toymaker Mattel teamed
up with Toy Talk, an organization specializing in artificial intelligence, to produce
the first Barbie doll that responds to questions. But getting Hello Barbie to market in time for the lucrative holiday shopping season required accelerating the
By committing to a November 2015 release date, Mattel had to cut its typical 18-month product development schedule in half. So the team doubled down:
A typical product team has 15 members, but the Hello Barbie team was twice as
large. The main challenge was to develop advanced and tailored voice-recognition
software to simulate real conversation. This side of the project demanded complex
vendor management: For the Wi-Fi transmitter alone, which connects Barbie to
the cloud to retrieve her dialogue, there were five vendors working simultaneously.
Despite a compressed schedule, the team was conducting final testing of Hello
Barbie’s most complicated dialogue by August, three months before the doll was
scheduled to ship to toy stores.
PROJECT: Hello Barbie RETAIL COST: US$74.99
DURATION: Less than a year
CHITCHAT: With the help of Toy Talk’s computer
software, writers programmed and wrote 3,000
lines of dialogue for Barbie in just two months.
“We are trying to build
her personality from scratch into the perfect friend.”
—Sarah Wulfeck, writer and director at Toy Talk, to The New York Times