ITGS Case Study 2018 - A Doll called Alicia

'A Doll called Alicia' is the 2018 case study for ITGS paper 3. This is for HL ITGS students only. The case study booklet focuses on a large software company called MAGS, which is looking to expand into the AI market. This could cover a wide range of areas, but the case study booklet narrows this down to the interactive toy market. This case study delves into several of the ITGS HL topics, including machine learning and neural networks.

This case study is for May and November 2018 only. The case study for May 2019 is The Road to Driverless Cars.

Interactive toys

Interactive toy: Hello Barbie

In the 2018 ITGS case study MAGS are aiming to develop a doll with AI. It therefore seems reasonable to start the case study work with an investigation of what AI toys are available at the moment. This is a nice fun activity for students to complete. It would also be great if some ITGS students owned similar toys and were able to demonstrate their capabilities in class.

Hello Barbie is perhaps the closest of these examples to the Alicia doll MAG want to produce. The doll is capable of having "two way conversations" with the user and uses WiFi and speech recognition to generate conversation. There is also a "Hello Dreamhouse" available which has voice activated commands. You can view a video of the doll and read the official Mattel FAQ. There is also a link to the ToyTalk privacy policy, which is very relevant to MAGS. Finally, it is interesting to read the customer reviews on Amazon, which point out quite a few issues with the doll.

Updated: 2017-06-29
BB-8 robot toy

Interactive toy: BB-8

BB-8 is quite a fun little toy (I know because I have one :) ). As well as performing its entertaining balancing act, BB-8 can also be controlled using a smart phone, or follow pre-programmed instructions. It also features (basic) voice control - a feature which is explicitly mentioned in the ITGS case study.

Updated: 2017-07-03

Interactive toy: Cozmo

Cozmo is a little robotic vehicle that has "a mind of its own". It comes with three blocks that the robot interacts with to perform various tricks. Cozmo has a lot of features that are relevant to A Doll Called Alicia. For example, Cozmo's eyes can track you around the room, which seems like a minor thing but helps improve user interaction. The eyes and a speaker are also used to provide feedback about the robot's "emotional state" at a given time. Looking at a toy like Cozmo it is quite easy to see how difficult it may be to implement all the features MAGS want in their Alicia doll. Cozmo also has an in-app purchasing system for new abilities - something we can imagine MAGS may also want to investigate.

Updated: 2017-07-03
Tapia interactive toy

Interactive toy: Tapia

Tapia is a robot companion / personal assistant from MJI Robotics in Tokyo. Currently Tapia is only available in Japanese, but an English version is scheduled for summer 2017. The trailer video also shows the English version. This itself relates to one of the issues in the case study booklet, which is developing AI toys for other markets (line 142). It is easy to imagine that many of Tapia's features - from personalised greetings and weather reports to sleep tracking and basic health advice - would be potentially useful in the Alicia doll.

Updated: 2017-07-03
Buddy interactive robot toy

Interactive toy: Buddy

Buddy is a companion robot currently being developed by Blue Frog Robotics. Although not commercially available yet, Buddy is a good example of the types of features that might be found in companion robots of the future. A useful class exercise might be to track the progress of the Blue Frog company and any issues or problems they face, as these could be directly transferable to MAGS. The trailer video is well worth watching.

Updated: 2017-07-03
i-Que robot

Interactive toy: i-Que

i-Que is billed as "The quick witted, smart talking, know it all robot". It acts as a regular toy until paired with a smart phone, which enables Internet connectivity and additional features. In common with many of these toys, it includes speech recognition technology.

The i-Que website has some information about the robot, including a FAQ. However the privacy policy seems to refer more to the website than the toy itself.

Updated: 2017-07-03
My Friend Cayla

Interactive toy: My Friend Cayla

My Friend Cayla is a range of interactive dolls (including Cayla, Party Time Cayla, and Princess Cayla if you must know). One feature is the apparent ability to recognise and talk about "her" accessories - presumably using some kind of RFID technology. As with several of the dolls here, downloading a smart phone app increases the range of functionality Cayla exhibits.

The US Cayla and the UK Cayla websites are sufficiently different to make them both worth visiting.

Updated: 2017-07-03
Social assistance robots

Examples: Social assistance robots

With ageing populations many countries are looking for new ways to care for the elderly. Carer robots or social assistance robots (SARs) are a particularly challenging type of robot to develop. Not only must they be able to cope with a wider range of tasks and situations than industrial robots, but they must present a friendly and interactive interface to the user. Many of these challenges are very similar to the toys being developed in the 2018 ITGS case study. Below are some examples and resources for the latest in care robots:

Updated: 2017-06-29
Robotic hardware

Class exercise: robotic hardware

After looking at the examples above, students might want to start thinking about how these techniques could be implemented. A good class exercise might be to select 5-10 types of sensor and then explain how these might be used in the Alicia doll. For example, the GPS sensor could be used to determine the doll's location. This could be used with an online weather service to look up the current weather and provide a relevant conversation starter (e.g. "It's cold outside day"). There are many examples - the key is to leverage ITGS students' existing knowledge and technical language.

Robot Platform has a very good page detailing robotic sensors if students need reminding.

Updated: 2017-06-29
AI examples

AI techniques examples

Quite a few of the technologies mentioned in the case study booklet are already part of the ITGS syllabus for HL students. However, we should expect the case study to go into more depth. A good starting point would be to review the artificial intelligence techniques already covered.

  • The expert system examples on this website cover perhaps the most basic of AI techniques
  • The AI examples are a set of interactive tools that demonstrate language processing and other AI techniques.
  • The 2008 Royal Institute Christmas Lecture was Digital Intelligence, and is freely available. It is actually extremely interactive and fun to watch. The end, which deals with machine vision, is particularly relevant to the MAGS case study.
  • The artificial neural network activity demonstrates how seemingly complex behaviour can be generated from simple inputs. This activity could link to a discussion of the inputs Alicia could use, and how they could be processed.
  • The predictive text lesson plan demonstrates how probability can be used to make predictions. This could be something Alicia may use when determining the most appropriate response to a prompt from a child.

Updated: 2017-06-29
Privacy policies

Privacy issues: Example privacy policies

Privacy is clearly a significant social and ethical issue in this case study. Below are example privacy policies from currently available interactive toys. They should help students understand the types of factors that need considering (perhaps the most significant of which is that the toys' users are likely to be young children).

As a side note, several of these policies (e.g. Cayla) talk about sending data to third parties such as Google and Wikipedia - who obviously have their own separate policies about how they use your personal data. Clearly data sharing is an important issue in this case study.

Updated: 2017-07-03
Global data protection laws

Privacy issues: Global data protection laws

Data protection laws of the world is a great little site which highlights the different degrees of data protection laws in different countries. Countries are colour coded from red (heavy protection) to green (limited protection). Clicking on a country brings up a page detailing the relevant laws. There are also separate sections for each country covering security requirements, breach notification requirements, and roles such as data protection officer.

Privacy Policies is another site with a list of countries and their data protection and privacy law requirements.

TechRadar has a more in-depth examination of global data protection laws and related issues, from North America to Asia.

Finally, the French CNIL (Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés) has a good page focusing on data transfers across the world. Although written only from the French perspective, this is an important page as intra-country data transfers are often forgotten when discussing information privacy.

Updated: 2017-06-29

Privacy Issue: Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

COPPA (not to be confused with COPA, which was repealed)is a US law governing online services that collect data from children under 13. This makes is very relevant to the MAGS case study, as it seems reasonable that many users of the Alicia doll may be children in this age range.

Although spectacularly bland, the FTC's COPPA page does explain the basics of what services can and cannot do with children's data. It is divided into subheadings such as Geolocation, Verifiable Parental Consent, and Photos. SEQ Legal has a good guide for technology companies, which explains how they can implement COPPA requirements such as obtaining parental consent.

5 Things Parents Should Know About COPPA is an easy to read beginner's guide, while Forbes has an article along the same lines.

Updated: 2017-07-03
Child with doll

Privacy issues: News articles

In the case study Mark and Margaret raise concerns about the privacy of the data collected by the Alicia doll. There are numerous articles online which raise concerns about existing interactive toys, robots, and dolls. Mark and Margaret (and ITGS students!) would be wise to read these to better understand the underlying social and ethical issues.

Updated: 2018-05-21