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My Friend Cayla

£N/A
build quality
fun
design
longevity

4.3

5

Overall

My friend Cayla isn't cheap, that's for certain, but if you want to delight your sometimes difficult progeny with something that could blow them away, she offers an amazing promise of the future of toys.

User Rating (23 votes)

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Sam Applegate

11th September 2014

By Sam Applegate

I like bacon sandwiches.


Boys and girls the world over have talked to their dolls and toys from time immemorial, inventing stories, hosting parties, playing out secret dramas large and small that adults are usually never privy to. Youthful imaginations have long wondered about what their toys might say had they a tongue and voice for themselves, inspiring those adults who never quite grew up to make films like the immensely successful Toy Story trilogy. We all wondered at some point (didn't we?!), if our collection of toys came to life when we weren't looking? After all, how else could that elusive missing dress or accessory be explained?

Business wasn't ignorant of the fact. The great toy companies have striven for decades to create ever more sophisticated dolls that interact with their young companions, but by and large their efforts have succeeded only to a limited degree. Now, with My friend Cayla, manufacturer Vivid claim to have broken that barrier for good.

Bringing Toys To Life?

As a doll, My friend Cayla isn't especially remarkable, but nor is she anything to be ashamed about. This is no Frankendoll! Her skin is soft and well textured, her hair is a thick and luxuriant mane of gold that little girls will delight in brushing. Given that Cayla is so new and is barely a few months old, no doubt a variety of accessories and sub-products will be released if the doll proves a success.

For all that you may think that she has some things in common with Barbie, there are some telling differences. To start with, Cayla has the body shape of a normal young girl – you won't find any shrunken waists, emaciated cheekbones or ludicrously large busts here. So marks go to Vivid for making a product that doesn't instantly create an artificial sense of body image. At eighteen inches high she's fairly tall, weighs less than a kilo and is powered by three AA batteries that aren't supplied. How long she lasts for depends on how intensively your daughter plays with her. You can also purchase Cayla's auburn-haired cousin, Chloe, if you prefer a slightly less stereotypically featured doll.

Much, Much More Than Just A Pretty Face

So far, so boring, right? Well, pay attention. Cayla's USP is that when you connect her up to the web -which is simply done via a Bluetooth connection and an app – you'll find that she can access all kinds of amazing bits of information and can interact with you. Effectively this is done by some clever software, similar to Apple's Siri, that consults Google in order to answer pretty much any question that you could throw at her. If your child has a fascination with which countries have the biggest populations, or needs to memorise the capitals of the world for a school test, Cayla will help her through it. It's pretty neat.

At this point you may be hyperventilating at the thought of all the assorted muck of the internet that your youngster could be exposed to. Chill. Vivid have made sure that the Cayla doll only visits certain known and safe parts of the internet, and there's a blacklist of nasty words that she'll deflect and avoid talking about. Furthermore, you can add to the list through the mobile or tablet app simply and efficiently, so if you have a particular concern that your daughter not learn about Pandas, for example, then you can rest at ease.

It's seriously impressive stuff when you think back to the days when you had a doll with a button on the back that could say a maximum of five phrases...!

For all that, the My friend Cayla doll does have her limitations. Let's be quite honest, when manufacturer Vivid claims that your child will be able to interact with Cayla as if they're having a genuine conversation, well, they're fibbing. We're still some way from I, Robot or Bladerunner levels of humanlike androids. Instead Cayla has a great deal of formulaic, pre-prepared sentences and sounds that she serves up with some degree of aplomb, although responses can sometimes be a little slow, so a touch of patience is needed! Thanks to her connection to the internet, though, she'll always be useful as a source of learning.

My friend Cayla is undoubtedly a stunning toy in many ways, but she's not without her flaws. The biggest of these is that Cayla works far more fluidly with an Apple/IoS pair than she does with Android. If you pair Cayla with one of the Cupertino-based company's more recent products, she'll act as a great filter between your child and the web, humanising all that information in a way that's not normally possible. But if you're using Android or aren't connected online, prepare to accept much reduced functionality that will leave you feeling a little bit like you haven't been invited to the party that everyone else you know is raving about.

If you're a dedicated Android user, you'll either have to take the Apple plunge and get a device that works well with Cayla or skip her entirely if you want to get good value for money. Similarly, if you live in an isolated rural area and your broadband speeds aren't up to much, it's probably best not to go for Caya.

My friend Cayla is a remarkable innovation that surely leads the way for other toy makers to follow in the future. She's not without her quirks and certainly remains a sometimes stilted doll rather than a genuinely humanlike android, but your daughter (or indeed son, I suppose) will almost certainly be blown away when they first meet her.

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To read more on this model, check out the My Friend Cayla homepage here (opens new window).

Images

  • Cayla can play games, tell stories, and discuss photos.
  • She has lovely hair to play with and is wearing a cool outfit.
  • My Friend Cayla requires three AA batteries, not included, and is recommended for children aged 5 years and older.
  • Cayla uses an app on an iOS or Android smart device. When Cayla is connected online via the smart device, she can understand speech by sending it to the internet as text.
  • My Friend Cayla is safer than simply handing a tablet to a child for a number of reasons: there is a comprehensive in-built list of pre-blocked words which can be added to at home

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