Like so many things over the years, Hallmark has once again channeled their creative and marketing forces to ruin our lives and spread apocrypha throughout the world. I am speaking of the new Hallmark Interactive Storybooks and Storybuddies. That’s not the way they spell storybuddies, but by leaving out the space I can also leave out the ™.
As a geek, one of the things that keeps me interested in modern technology is to see the evolution and expansion of cutting edge gadgets come together to provide everyday solutions that proliferate into the realm of being ordinary. This is usually a good thing: the Internet, high speed packet switching, advanced video decoders on a chip, and movie rentals all came together to give me Netflix in a cheap set-top box. Rejoice.
Hallmark combined sound compression, miniaturized flash memory, and advances in speech recognition to give you story books that make animal noises when you read key phrases. Twenty years ago, being able to record and play back sound on a desktop sized computer was the cutting edge of the modern PC. Ten years ago, recognizing spoken words without training was still something that got proof-of-concept demos at IEEE. Five years ago, cramming a gig of data onto a quarter-sized NAND chip was still pretty nifty. Bring them all together and what do we get? Well yes, Apple gave us Siri, but Hallmark also brings their offering to market.
Age has done little to reshape my underlying goals in life; just as it was on the playground in kindergarten I would prefer we keep the cool toys away from the assholes. The field of medicine has a familiar lament: a world of cancer and HIV that has a pill for erectile dysfunction. The field of technology has found its analogue, though it may sound like a field full of douchebags (and it is full of douchebags – most of them have headsets and hang out on Xbox Live) – we live in a world where the PC still relies on BIOS, DRM still lives in our movies, and Hallmark gets access to speech recognition.