What are they smoking over at IBM's R&D labs? First it decides to enter a supercomputer on Jeopardy!, and now it has filed a patent for toys with advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The company has put forward a patent by the name of: “Adaptive System for Real-Time Behavioural Coaching and Command Intermediation”. It wants to use the technology, and eventually the toys, to replace the need for boring Supernanny-esque reality shows.
In the patent it explains the invention could: "include multiple interaction operations that can be performed by the interactive device for helping the child play less rough with other children."
Or, "For example, one interaction operation can include an audible warning telling the child ‘to play nice’ in a strict tone of voice, whereas another interaction operation can include an audible warning that asks the child ‘would you like someone to do that to you’ in a softer tone of voice along with a visual cue as well."
The stems from the fact that the "emotional centre" for humans is the limbic brain, which is a separate entity from the rational and decision-making neo-cortex. Adults generally have a developed pre-frontal cortex that allows them to bring strong emotions such as frustration and anger under control.
IBM describes this as the "inner voice of reason" that enables adults to keep strong emotional impulses in check.
However, the neo-cortex in children is still developing, which results in harnessing frustration and emotional outbursts. Generally being able to "do the right thing" is made more difficult for a child.
It says the AI toys may help, as usually an adult parent-figure who is monitoring the child's behaviour is able to provide repeated cues and admonitions for behavioural change in these situations.
However, there are a number of disadvantages - like parental figures may not always be present or even when parental figures are present they may not want to be perceived as incessantly "nagging" the child.
The toys will work, says IBM, as they will constantly be there to monitor the child. However, we're not sure Channel 4 will be too happy as they could effectively do it out of a cheap re-run schedule.