The Internet of Things (Io T) is on the agenda this month. Since the good folks at ECN didn’t actually
tell me which “Io T” they were talking about, I feel free
to pick my own definition. Let’s head over to Wikipedia’s
disambiguation page. Institute of Transportation? Yawn.
Illuminates of Thanateros? No clue.
What to do? Given that we’re recovering from the
gift-giving season, let’s talk about the Internet of Toys:
the convergence of the Internet and the toy market. This
subset of the Io T (another definition of Io T—who knew?)
is a rapidly growing field: and of course, it has its own
A connected toy incorporates many of the same
elements as a “grown-up” industrial or medical Io T
application: a low-power edge node with sensors; a
human-machine interface (HMI); wireless connectivity;
cloud-based data gathering and analysis that leads to
actionable insights; and even artificial intelligence (AI).
Hello Barbie: An Internet of Toys Edge Node
What does an “edge node” look like? Meet Hello Barbie.
Figure 1: Not your mother’s Barbie. Mattel’s interactive Barbie and
a close-up of the board. (Source: Somerset Recon)
Interactive operation and a Wi-Fi connection have
given Mattel’s venerable doll a new lease on life.
Christmas season; she was joined this year by a Wi-Fi-activated Dream House. Through a relationship with
San Francisco start-up Toy Talk, the doll can carry on
a “conversation” with your child: answer questions,
suggest games, and discuss the latest pop culture news
with help from a cloud-based server.
What does it take to chat with a 6-to-8-year-old girl,
Mattel’s target market? Figure 2 shows a teardown of
the doll and its board, courtesy of the security experts
at Somerset Recon, who also performed a detailed
Mattel’s EZ-Connect MW300 Wi-Fi microcontroller
provides the processing power: it relies on an ARM
Cortex-M4F 32-bit core with DSP and floating-point
support. The part includes an IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi radio,
512 kB RAM, an accelerated flash memory controller, and
a comprehensive set of I/O peripherals.
Incidentally, Mattel has collaborated with Amazon Web
Services (AWS) to offer an Io T starter kit based around
another EZ-Connect device, the MW302, that helps
developers quickly prototype a product and connect to
AWS Io T cloud services.
Barbie’s audio device is the Nuvoton NAU88U10, a
low-power, wideband monophonic audio coder-decoder
(codec). Supported functions include a 5-band graphic
equalizer, an automatic level control (ALC) with noise
gate, a programmable gain amplifier (PGA), standard I2S
or PCM audio interface, and a full fractional-N on-chip
phase-locked loop (PLL). The device also features a
differential microphone input, variable gain control stages,
and an integrated 1 W speaker driver.
Other components on the board include 16 MB of flash
memory, a rechargeable battery for up to 60 minutes’ play,
and an external charging station.
Barbie relies on over 8,000 lines of preprogrammed
dialog for her responses; Mattel’s choices have spawned
numerous criticisms of the toy—for instance, the word
“fashion” appears far more often than any STEM-
related topics, and snarky You Tube videos document her
inadequate responses to questions, such as, “do you think
that women can have it all?” and “do you know what
second-wave feminism is?”
Some of the replies deal with career advice. (ECN
readers will be glad to know that interactive Barbie is at
least somewhat aware of the dearth of girls in the STEM
Barbie Meets the IoT
By Paul Pickering, Technical Contributor