The musician Grimes has developed an interactive AI plush toy for children which can converse with and “learn” the personalities of their owners. Grimes and toy company Curio created the line of toys in partnership with OpenAI, as first reported by The Washington Post. Grimes, who voices all three toys, is also an investor and advisor for the product.
The three plush figurines are named Gabbo, Grem, and Grok — not to be confused with the AI chatbot named Grok owned by Elon Musk, a former partner of Grimes. Curio told the Post that the AI plush toy Grok and chatbot Grok are unrelated. The toy Grok is a shortening of the word “Grocket,” which Grimes said she coined due to the fact that her children with Musk grew up in the vicinity of SpaceX rockets. In a 2022 post on X, the musician claimed that her two-year-old son with Musk could identify “obscure rocket design” and often shadowed his father at engineering meetings.
The three characters have unique personalities that Curio built on top of the OpenAI language model. “Grok is a friendly rocket who loves to dance and can’t fly. Grem is a space alien who’s obsessed with the color pink. Gabbo is a curious, Pinocchio-like figure who’s always looking for new friends. The idea here is that we can build fun, lovable personalities into each new character that we launch,” wrote Curio co-founder Misha Sallee in an email to The Verge.
According to Sallee, the toys currently have one mode, a “sweet, friendly, jokester personality that is child appropriate” — but the company is working on a functionality in beta that lets parents set more preferences.
According to the US Patent and Trademark Office’s database, Curio filed an application to trademark the name Grok on September 12th, 2023, though the application is still pending. Still, it appears that they beat Musk by more than a month — xAI didn’t apply for a trademark for the Grok chatbot until October 27th, 2023.
The collaboration between Grimes and Curio was sparked by a post on X, according to the Curio website. In April, X user Roon posted about a future where “every last thing” will be “animated with intelligence” — including children’s teddy bears. Grimes felt compelled to reply to the post.
“This would be great if safe. Parenting is so hard, I’d love if my kids were hanging out w smthn equivalent to a culture ship mind in a teddy bear haha that’s prob too much to ask …,” wrote the musician.
In a conversation between Roon, Grimes, and Sallee posted on the toy company’s blog, the trio talk about the potential of AI toys to influence human behavior — as well as reduce their reliance on screens.
“I really feel like this is also the first step towards also sort of reducing screen time as much as humanly possible. […] I think when you take the screens out of it, the human mind it just tends to work so much better and people aren’t stuck in a state of constant sort of dopamine hits that’s disabled them in other aspects of their life, and I feel like we’re sort of like a decade into everyone having screens be a really major part of every single day and many, many hours of their day,” said Grimes.
For now, the AI toys will require a Wi-Fi connection to work — though the founders hope to one day contain all the hardware and software in the toy itself. The toys will come with an app and will provide parents with a written transcript of any conversation their child has with the toys. The company told the Post that the toys won’t store any voice data, and the storage of the transcripts are in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The transcripts will be deleted after 90 days.
The AI toys are available now for preorder for $99 each on the Curio website. Those who order by December 17th will receive a golden ticket by Christmas — so recipients will have a token of what’s coming. The first orders are expected to ship in early 2024.