Dec 14, 2023 - Technology

Grimes teams up with startup on AI-equipped plush toy


Grem, Grok and Gabbo. Image: Curio

A new toy combines the AI engine behind ChatGPT, the voice of pop singer Grimes and a plush exterior to create a stuffed animal that can carry on endless conversations with a kid.

Why it matters: The product is part of a swelling wave of products that embed AI capabilities inside physical objects. It just happens to be among the first — and fuzziest.

How it works: The $99 toy from Curio, a 4-person startup based in Redwood City, Calif., comes in three models: Grem, Gabbo and Grok, which is the one that speaks with a digitized version of Grimes' voice.

  • All three use OpenAI's models (mainly GPT-3.5 turbo) to craft the toy's dialogue. The toy itself has WiFi and Bluetooth along with a speaker, microphone and accelerometer (no cameras or screens) and connects with a mobile app where parents can control settings and view past conversations.
  • The product can be pre-ordered at Curio's site beginning Thursday. Those who buy in the first 72 hours will get a certificate mailed before the holidays, but the toy itself may not arrive until early next year.

Yes, but: Although Curio believes they have guardrails in place to keep the AI-driven conversations safe and kid-friendly, the firm's founders stress that the toys are launching in beta.

  • "We are looking for the more pioneering families willing to go on this journey with us," says CEO Misha Sallee. "If you are scared, maybe wait a little bit."

The big picture: Sallee said Curio's toys are an early experiment in what he and others see as a key new frontier of AI — building the software into various kinds of robotics, a field often called embodied AI.

  • "I do view this as the very early innings of the robotics wave of AI," Sallee said. "We expect to see a lot of other folks playing in this space."
  • Tech companies often begin with solving a "toy" version of the bigger problem they are trying to address, Sallee said. When it comes to robots, he noted, "Toys are the toy problem."

Of note: In addition to being the voice of Grok, Grimes is an investor in the company, which has raised $1.6 million in early funding.

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