Innovation That Matters

Cute or creepy? Social toys let babies Instagram from their cot


From the Netherlands, New Born Fame is a set of interactive plush toys that let babies take selfies and automatically upload them to Facebook.

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Thanks to social media, we can now flaunt whatever aspects of our private lives we want for all to see. For parents, that can also mean their children's private lives. Those born today will not only have an intimate record of their day-to-day existence preserved online, but they'll also grow up in a world where shedding their privacy is not only the norm, but expected. While ideas such as Huggies' TweetPee have already seen babies notify their parents via Twitter whenever they need to go potty, a project called New Born Fame has now created a set of interactive plush toys that let babies take selfies and automatically upload them to Facebook.

Babies are too young to be able to use smartphones or computers, but Netherlands-based graduate student Laura Cornet has developed a social interface that infants can get to grips with. New Born Fame takes the form of a mobile with soft toys hanging down, designed to be placed over the cot. Each one interacts with the baby's social profiles — set up by their parent(s) and synced beforehand.

One of the toys features a camera and a GPS locator. Pull the small bird, and the baby sends out a randomly generated tweet. Pull the Facebook logo, and they automatically update their status along with their current location. Pull the camera toy and a video is taken and uploaded onto Instagram. The ball shaped toy also lets babies take a selfie and upload it on all platforms. The kit also includes a pair of baby boots with activity monitoring sensors that track how often the infant kicks.

For those that think this sounds like a weird baby version of 1984, you may be right. But Cornet developed the project specifically to get parents thinking about the information they post about their children online without their consent. The data will remain available for anyone — even, potentially, employers — to see long after they've grown up. Allow a baby to make its own decisions about what it posts online and you're likely to get a barrage of out-of-focus selfies and inappropriate shots of the poop they just did. All of which may come back to haunt them.

While the toy set was developed more as an investigation into the ethics of social media, Cornet admits there is also probably a commercial demand for toys like this. She even aims to develop them further without the automatic or public posting, instead sharing the content privately with parents. However — as incidents such as the recent Snapchat leaks and the hacking of celebrity iCloud accounts show — this could simply provoke further discussion over what really is private in the age of digital sharing, and the responsibilities businesses have to protect their customers.



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