My Friend Cayla: An AI Chatbot Toy

My Friend Cayla was a doll introduced in 2014 that was introduced during a time when everyone was interested in the “Internet of Things” concept. Linked toys are Web gadgets with built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or other functionality. Via embedded apps, a Bluetooth, or RFID Connection, these toys can provide app connectivity, speech or image recognition, and other Bluetooth/RFID features or web search features. These toys, which might or may not have been smart, have a more customized play environment for children. A related toy typically gathers user details either willingly or uncontrollably, which poses privacy issues.

The data obtained by the linked toys are typically kept in a database where businesses that manufacture related toys can use the data for their purposes, providing that they comply with the provisions set out in the Children’s Online Privacy Security Act (COPPA) and other online privacy protections.

A reduction of the duality between computers and living beings. Artificial intelligence (AI) is now rooted in technologies of all types, from robotics to social networks. When we witness the rise of the “Internet of Toys,” this impacts the youth.

The “Internet of Toys” is now facing increased questions regarding privacy and protection. For example, take Mattel’s Aristotle. Aristotle was like an Amazon Echo for kids planned for release in 2018, the bot was intended to capture video and audio from kids and have an available Internet link. Given Aristotle’s close relation to small children and the privacy concerns that arose, Mattel confirmed it would not be releasing the device. Another Mattel product, Hello Barbie, did make it to market 

A smart toy, the digital Cayla doll, was pulled from the market in Germany in February of this year because its Bluetooth connection rendered it susceptible to hacking.

Tech toys have been typical presents for vacations. Most are communicative; some also say educational advantages. But one such toy has privacy activists truly concerned.

My Friend Cayla shown with her packaging.

What Is My Friend Cayla?

It is named My Friend Cayla and it’s a doll that appeared like a lot of other toys do. She is available in different skin tones and hair colors, and she is the smartest toy you can ever get, as per the website.

My friend Cayla, though, has several other features as well. She dances, speaks, and she hears what the child playing with her says, and that was one of the security concerns that both parents and government agencies had with her.

My Friend Cayla was a series of 18-inch dolls that utilized speech recognition technologies to acknowledge the child’s speech and hold a chat in combination with an Android or iOS smartphone app.

The doll uses the web to look out for what the child says and then replies about what it found online. Bob Delprincipe, the inventor of Cindy Smart and Tekno the Robotic Puppy, created My Friend Cayla. The doll is banned as an unauthorized monitoring method in Germany.


Cayla operates by transmitting microphone inputs via Bluetooth to an iOS or Android (os) computer. The software then parses the speech into text and scans the Internet for an answer using keywords. The app converts the reply message into voice and gives it back to the doll, who replies after a pause of about one second.

Cayla also has a “personality” powered by 3 AA batteries, with a database comprising her relatives, pets, favorite snacks, pop stars, and film information.

“Bob Delprincipe, the doll’s founder, says: “She’s not a search machine, she’s a seven-year-old kid. She doesn’t know any stuff.” And he argued that while there were “intelligent” toys before, there had not been a Web doll.

My Friend Cayla was one of several attempts to make an AI-enabled toy that ran into problems.


In 3 models, Cayla is available: Blonde, Brunette, and African American. The UK has seen an exclusive Princess Edition release.


My Friend Cayla is being published in the UK by Vibrant. The US dealer is Genesis.


The doll was appointed Creative Product of the Year 2014 by the London Toy Industry Association and was the top 10 toy this past holiday season among all major European retailers. The model was later released in August 2015 on the United States market.

In 2015, My Friend Cayla received the 2015 TTPM Most Desired Dolls (Toys, Tots, Pets & More)


In the BBC World News Software Tent program, Ken Munro of security company Pen Test Partners said he hacked the doll and explained the exploit. By merely using Bluetooth to be used as a wireless speaker and microphone used to connect with kids, Tim Medin from Counter Hack even hacked the doll. “Cayla was the subject of a tech prank, “Cayla was essentially the target of a tech prank.

The German Federal Network Agency told parents in February 2017 that they were obligated to “delete” every Cayla in their hands because it represents a hidden spy system in violation of the German Telecommunications Act. The department also finds the Bluetooth software dangerous, enabling contacts within a 10 m radius to Cayla’s microphone and speaker.

The Norwegian Consumer Council also condemned the doll for enabling the gathered data from the speech of the infant to be used for tailored ads and other commercial uses and to be exchanged with third parties, as well as for secret advertising through the optimistic comments of the doll on some goods and services.

The Federal Trade Commission is reviewing related concerns in the United States on if the upload of child expression by My Friend Cayla represents an undue privacy breach.

The ensuing dispute contributed to the doll’s inclusion in the Museum of Failure in Sweden, where related abandoned goods and services show that has either been market disasters or are problematic in their own right.

There is also a Cayla doll on show at the Spy Museum Berlin, the first toy in diverse spying and surveillance toys. After reading a policy decision to remove the dolls following a moratorium on sales and distribution, the doll was donated by a German mother who discovered the doll in her daughter’s bed.

On its homepage, Genesis Toys states that although “so many of the communicative functions of Cayla could be viewed offline,” looking for data will involve internet access. “The promo video for Cayla doll also relates to the capability of the toy to interact with the child, as it stated: “ask almost everything from Cayla.

These dolls need smartphone applications to function, although some queries may be asked directly. The toys retain a continually activated Bluetooth link so that the dolls can access the activities in the software and recognize the items whenever the kid touches the phone.

Some of the questions raised are registered for parsing and submitted to Nuance’s servers, but it is also uncertain how much of the data is held confidential. The maker of toys ensures that absolute privacy is observed.

The toys were launched at the end of 2015, but they still sell like hotcakes.

“As per the investigators’ claim in the FTC complaint, “they can communicate with and clandestinely listen to communications gathered from the My Friend Cayla and i-Que dolls by linking one mobile to the doll via the inappropriate Bluetooth link and contacting the mobile through a second device.

This ensures that to connect with the kid using the doll as the gateway, anybody will use their mobile.

My Fried Cayla was able to be hacked to put some rather child unfriendly phrases into her mouth.


The Bundesnetzagentur, Germany’s Federal Network Regulator, prohibited the selling and ownership of the wired My Friend Cayla robot manufactured by Genesis Toys in early 2017, arguing that the toy is a dangerous and illegal system for transmitting knowledge. The first linked doll that Germany has prohibited is My Friend Cayla.

The Agency further notes that any toy transmits data in Germany, even aspects such as voice and video transmission, without detection is prohibited. It is worried about the toy’s future usage as a monitoring system.

Jochen Homann, president of the Bundesnetzagentur, says that items that hide cameras or recordings can transmit a sound and, therefore, transfer data without identification violate personal rights. This applies especially to children’s toys. The Cayla doll has been prohibited in Germany. This is to protect these people in our community.”

The agency is undertaking further inquiries into other similar toys. No charges have been brought against the families who have the product. To eliminate the possible danger of personal data protection, the Federal Network Agency urged the parents to promptly dismantle the toy.

Other points of interest apply to the enforcement with COPPA through connected toy firms. A lawsuit was sent to the Federal Trade Commission by the Electronic Privacy Knowledge Centre, the Movement for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, and the Consumers Union on how My Friend Cayla and I-Que Intelligent Bot created by Genesis Toys breached COPPA rules.

The Take-Out

Today, the main change is that such devices are much more complicated and typical, being an essential part of kids’ lives. Our study, to our knowledge, is the first to understand better how children interpret these new intelligent agents by direct contact. Some other recent experiments have explored some social and psychological conditions assigned to autonomous robots by children.

When we look to the future, we agree that more focus can be given to how children communicate with smart toys through academics and product creators. Although adults see AI’s potential as self-driving vehicles, personal assistants, and robot maids, kids are more accessible to creative opportunities.

Children’s versatility to see and communicate as entirely different individuals with AI agents encourages them to envision and develop new interaction methods. This might also be a new form of expression and discovery of the device’s essence and its existence.

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