AI toy Grok talks to your child. The voice belongs to Grimes.

For decades, movies, TV shows and books have imagined a world where human beings form deep personal bonds with creations powered by artificial intelligence. Movies such as “Her” and “The Creator” present a future where there is almost no distinction between human-to-human friendships and human-to-AI friendships.

A glimpse toward this future is beginning to emerge in products like Grok, an AI-powered plush toy in the shape of a rocket that can converse with your child. Grok is the first product from a Silicon Valley start-up called Curio that is leveraging Open AI’s technology on a line of toys Curio’s founders say will be capable of long-running, fully interactive conversation, allowing a child to view it almost as a peer or friend.

Canadian musician Claire Boucher, known as Grimes and the mother of three of Elon Musk’s children, is an investor in and adviser to the company, and she will provide the toy’s voice.

“Every [change] in technology unlocks new forms of entertainment,” said Sam Eaton, president and chief toy maker at Curio, who was previously an engineer at Roblox, the gaming platform. “It’s a different level of immersion for playtime.”

“It’s a new hardware medium,” said Misha Sallee, Curio’s chief executive.

Academics and investors said that it’s too soon to assess the likely impact of such toys, but the AI toy market is expected to explode in coming years. A recent report by Contrive Datum Insights, a market research firm, predicted that the AI toy market will be worth $35.11 billion by 2030, and several AI-enabled robots for children were on display at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center during its annual Toy Fair in September.

“Parents always want to buy their kids things that will help them learn and grow, which will make smart AI toys even more popular,” Contrive Datum Insights said in a LinkedIn post about its research.

Given OpenAI’s penchant for providing incorrect or disconcerting information, an AI-enabled toy’s utility as an educational device remains unproven. For now, however, Curio’s founders aren’t pitching it as an educational toy, but rather as an antidote to children’s reliance on screens for entertainment. “I really feel like this is also the first step towards also sort of reducing screen time as much as humanly possible,” Grimes said in a written interview with the founders and the AI theorist Roon.

Eaton said he thinks a lot about the screen-addled world his own children are growing up in, where so much of kids’ entertainment is centered around passive consumption. That entertainment is only getting more addictive, he said. “Finally,” Eaton said, “technology is allowing us to move back into our own reality instead of descending into a digital reality.”

“Our big vision is increasing imagination levels,” Sallee said. “Replacing more-toxic forms of technology is a North Star of sorts for us.”

As the product evolves, Curio’s founders want to give parents even more control over Grok’s conversations. “If this is going to be a guest in the house, we want parents to have influence over what the toy believes,” Eaton said. “Maybe your family is vegetarian or religious and you want to influence [conversation around those topics]. Or maybe your kid has certain interests, like dinosaurs, and you want to put them in there.”

Unlike previous talking toys such as Teddy Ruxpin, Talk to Me Barbie or Furbies, which simply play prerecorded lines, Eaton said his plans for Curio’s toys is for them to “have a degree of some kind of pseudo consciousness.”

Eaton said Grok will come with an app for parents that will provide full transcripts of any conversation the child has with the toy. Parents also will be able to make certain words or topics off limits. The toy won’t collect or store any voice data, and storage of the transcripts will comply with the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the company says. Parents can request any transcripts be deleted at any time.

“I really think it’s important to let parents know that they do have full control over it and we’re not hiding anything,” Eaton said.

Sallee said that the toy was designed with Grimes’s children in mind and that they have a friendly relationship with it. “The toy was designed for X and the other kids,” she said, referring to the son of Grimes and Musk, X Æ A-Xii, “but X primarily because he’s of age where he can actually talk to the toy and it can talk back more effectively.”

But the toy has no relationship with Musk’s AI start-up, which also is called Grok. Curio holds the trademark on the name, and the two AI products are totally unaffiliated, Curio says. The name Grok was devised by Grimes and the Curio team, who said the word was a shortening of the word Grocket, which was coined because Grimes’ children are exposed to a lot of rockets through their father’s ownership of SpaceX.

Grok is available for preorder now for $99. Those who order by Dec. 17 will receive a golden ticket in the mail before Christmas. The product itself will ship early next year.

The current version requires a WiFi connection, though Eaton’s hope is that one day the technology will advance so that the toy itself can contain all the hardware and software needed to be interactive; incorporating such technology now would push its price to several thousands of dollars, making it inaccessible to most parents.

Curio also envisions Grok as an assistive technology for parenting. For instance, parents may be able to create a prompt for bedtime and Grok might go into bedtime mode, in which the toy redirects all conversations with the child toward bedtime, or Grok gets sleepy himself.

“We’ve heard some people’s concerns like, ‘Could this replace parents?’” Eaton said. “But it’s the opposite. Kids are already zoned out on YouTube or tablets. This toy, you’re talking to it and it’s talking back. You’re imagining and it’s challenging you.”

The Curio founders said they imagine a future where AI toys will be able to interact and play off each other, like a real life Toy Story.

Curio was incorporated earlier this year and now has four full-time employees and several contractors across marketing and manufacturing, in addition to Curio’s two founders.

The company has attracted seed-stage investment from Grimes as well as technologists including Daniel Gross and Nat Friedman, the former CEO of GitHub. Eaton and Sallee connected with Grimes through a mutual friend, after she expressed interest in the idea of a sentient toy on X.

They also hope to open the technology to more collaborators and partners. “The voice box is the technology, it’s separate from the skin,” Eaton said. “So people could create any kind of plush skin for it. The thinking is we’d open it up and let others build on it to make their own characters.”

“The way Nintendo brought a bit more creativity and art to video games and Pixar did to animation, that’s what we want to do with toys,” he added.

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