Ever wonder what Barbie could teach you about social media? Maybe you haven't, but Barbie got an upgrade lately in the form of a video camera built into her necklace. In her latest incarnation, Barbie Video Girl can give a few clues as to where social media is heading.
Barbie Video Girl has attracted her share of controversy, with reactions veering from the glowing iJustine review (not safe for people who don't want to see how the dolls are made) to the alarmist TechCrunch TV discussion (not safe for most everyone else). There's little reason to fear Barbie Video Girl, as A) it's not a live webcam, and B) parents and caretakers still have a role to play in children's lives. What this doll does is open up new ways for children to play and tell stories. It's likely that as scary a video you'll see Barbie produce is this tour of 360i's Emerging Media Lab. To really see her in action though, see how she compares with a $1,500 Canon camera.
So what does she have to do with social media? Quite a bit. Here are some reasons why she's a hint of what else will be filling up your dream home.
1) She's portable. I've carried Barbie Video Girl with me in my sport jacket pocket on the subway and around airports. When I spoke at Blog World Expo and wanted to show her off, I almost forgot I was carrying her around. She's one more example of how mobile devices can take incredibly varied forms.
2) She's a Jack (or Jill) of many trades. Consumers with mobile devices are embracing convergence. If you have a phone, why would you carry a watch or buy an alarm clock? Why would you carry a camera, a portable gaming system, or a pen? GPS devices quickly went from one of mankind's greatest inventions to a free feature, especially for Android phone owners. It's hardly surprising to see toys evolve to meet these new multipurpose expectations.
3) She's made for content creators. Forrester Research reports that 48% of U.S. women ages 18 to 24 are "creators" -- the ones uploading videos they created, along with blogging, building their own websites, and other hands-on activities. Forrester doesn't track children and teens, but with college-aged women as the most active participants in social media based on the demographics provided, the general trend shows creators skewing significantly younger. These creators are increasingly honing their skills well before their tenth birthday.
4) She exists in physical and digital worlds simultaneously. Part of her value comes in the form of her physical object and part of it is the digital content that she stores. So many emerging fields now -- location-based services, augmented reality, barcodes -- combine those elements of physical and digital, and she's just one manifestation of it.
5) She is a step away from the Internet of things. The "internet of things" concept describes how any device can now access the Internet. Consider a digital picture frame that receives updates via WiFi from an online photo gallery; not too long ago, having a picture frame connect to the Internet would have sounded ridiculous. As an example closer to my heart and gut, my agency's bar in our New York office is on Twitter. Barbie Video Girl doesn't quite fit in with this group, as she has to tether to a PC (via a hot-pink USB cable) to upload her content, but it's hardly a stretch that next year's model could upload videos directly over WiFi, just as you can with Kodak EasyShare cameras and others.
6) She's a cheap date. It's easy to find her for $50, and prices during the holidays have at times dipped below $40. Can you imagine what that kind of pricing will do to give kids access to technologies like this?
Who knew Barbie was such a trailblazer?