A new collaboration between musician, mother, and artist Claire “Grimes” Boucher and Curio, a Silicon Valley start-up, introduces "Grok," "Grew," and "Gabbo" – a trio of AI-powered toys that promise to redefine children's play experiences. These plush toys aim to reduce kids' reliance on screens by providing an engaging interactive playmate powered by conversational AI.
As the first release in Curio’s line of “toys that talk back,” Grok, Grew, and Gabbo spark creative play through two-way conversation. For example, kids can chat with Grok about adventures to the moon, candy planets, or anything their minds dream up.
Given Grimes' personal relationship with Elon Musk (they have three kids together), one might assume Grok's name is connected to the conversational AI assistant from Elon Musk's company xAI, also called Grok. However the toy's moniker predates Musk's Grok AI announcement and leverages generative AI tech from OpenAI.
The Curio team, talk ambitiously about a future where AI toys like Grok can interact with each other, creating a real-life 'Toy Story' experience. This reflects a broader vision of integrating AI into everyday life, making it a natural, beneficial presence in children’s growth and development. The idea is to encourage more active, imaginative play, enhancing creativity and interaction.
Grimes, known for her eclectic and futuristic approach to music and art, lends her voice to Grok, infusing the toy with a unique personality. The development of Grok was influenced by her own children's exposure to technology and a desire to create a more engaging, interactive form of play.
“I think the more you keep things verbal, the more you're forcing people to use their working memory,” said Grimes on Curio’s motivations. Co-founder Sam Eaton added, “Finally, technology is allowing us to move back into our own reality instead of descending into a digital reality.”
Grok, Grew, and Gabbo stand out from traditional talking toys by offering more than prerecorded lines. By leveraging generative AI, the toys are far more responsive than toys of old and have a “pseudo consciousness” to inspire imaginative back-and-forth chats. They ask questions, tell jokes, and aim for a balance of adaptability and editorial consistency in their respective personalities.
Recognizing the importance of safety and parental oversight, the toys come with an app that allows parents to monitor and control the interactions. Conversations can be fully reviewed, and specific topics or words can be made off-limits. This feature aligns with the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, ensuring a safe and controlled environment for children.
Curio envisions the toys as more than simple playthings; they want them to be seen as an assistive tool in parenting. For example, they can be programmed to aid in bedtime routines, gently guiding children towards sleep with its interactions.
With musical talents like Grimes on board, Curio has big plans to explore AI’s creative potential. Co-founder Misha Sallee hinted at baby raves featuring special DJ sets broadcast through the toys. As technology advances, Curio plans to integrate more features, potentially making it a standalone interactive device without the need for constant WiFi connectivity.
Unfortunately, these fun toys will not be available for this holiday season. Grok, Grew, and Gabbo are currently available for preorder at $99, with plans for the product to ship early next year.