Update, 1/2/21: It's New Year's weekend, and Ars staff is still enjoying some necessary downtime to prepare for a new year (and a slew of CES emails, we're sure). While that happens, we're resurfacing some vintage Ars stories like this 2017 project from Ars Editor Emeritus Sean Gallagher, who created generations of nightmare fuel with only a nostalgic toy and some IoT gear. Tedlexa was first born (err, documented in writing) on January 4, 2017, and its story appears unchanged below.
It's been 50 years since Captain Kirk first spoke commands to an unseen, all-knowing Computer on Star Trek and not quite as long since David Bowman was serenaded by HAL 9000's rendition of "A Bicycle Built for Two" in 2001: A Space Odyssey. While we've been talking to our computers and other devices for years (often in the form of expletive interjections), we're only now beginning to scratch the surface of what's possible when voice commands are connected to artificial intelligence software.
Meanwhile, we've always seemingly fantasized about talking toys, from Woody and Buzz in Toy Story to that creepy AI teddy bear that tagged along with Haley Joel Osment in Steven Spielberg's A.I. (Well, maybe people aren't dreaming of that teddy bear.) And ever since the Furby craze, toymakers have been trying to make toys smarter. They've even connected them to the cloud—with predictably mixed results.