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IBM’s Watson, the cognitive computing system that famously beat the world’s best Jeopardy players, has been used to build health care applications, create banking tools, and even cook gourmet meals. And now it’s ready for its most important task yet: toys.

Today, IBM announced that it is working with smart toys developer Elemental Path on the creation of a series of toys powered by Watson.

Known as CogniToys, the line will integrate Watson’s cognitive computing tools to provide speech recognition and natural language processing, personalization, insights into kids’ learning, and more.

Elemental Path is aiming to raise at least $50,000 with a Kickstarter campaign it launched today. The first CogniToy will be a mini-dinosaur, the companies said. They did not say how much the dinosaur will cost.

In a release, IBM and Elemental Path said that CogniToys will be capable of engaging in age-appropriate conversations with children thanks to Watson’s natural language processing features.

Mark Meadows, the founder of Geppetto Avatars, a company that develops intelligent digital agents aimed at the health care market, told VentureBeat that CogniToys will likely need to be sure that the “conversations” the toys have with children are safe. He also said that the government may end up having to step in as toys like this become mainstream. “They will probably need to be new forms of regulation around the kind of advertising these toys can do,” Meadows said. “Can it tell my kid to buy candy? Can it tell my kid to buy cigarettes?”

For now, though, IBM and Elemental Path are clearly hoping parents are interested in smart toys that can talk with their children. The success of the Kickstarter campaign, and of the toys themselves, will likely depend on how smart they really are.


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