You might have heard about Barbie-themed cameras but Mattel is responsible for making quite possibly one of the most obscure cameras ever made – the Video Barbie Girl Doll. Released in 2010, Mattel’s video doll didn’t quite make the splash the toy company had hoped. Amidst fears it could be used malevolently, many parents wanted the toys recalled.
The camera in the Barbie itself was nothing to shout about, some of the best cameras for kids are cheaper and offer much better specs. It was capable of recording low-res 320x240 footage, had 256 MB internal memory (around 27 mins of footage), and a battery life of around 75 minutes. The battery compartment was located in the doll’s thighs and the camera was positioned as a necklace on the middle of Barbie’s chest.
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Footage could be transferred from the doll via USB and uploaded to a PC to be edited. The doll came with a creatively named, Video Girl Editing Software which allowed children to easily cut together clips, add music and export their projects.
The discrete nature of the camera sent alarm bells ringing for the FBI who were concerned it could be used to film child pornography. They issued an alert that recommended that police searches should look out for these dolls as they could contain evidence. This fell into the hands of the press which inevitably caused parents all over the country to worry their children were at risk.
In response to the FBI’s and parental concerns, Mattel issued a statement saying, “Mattel products are designed with children in mind and their best interests in mind. Many of Mattel's employees are parents themselves and we understand the importance of safety.”
The Barbie Doll camera was released in the same year as Instagram launched. It triggered even more concern that videos filmed with the toy could end up online and fall into the wrong hands. Mattel discontinued the Video Girl Barbie doll in 2012, just two years after its launch despite no reports of misuse (thankfully).
I'd love to have sat in on the board meeting where someone proposed the Video Barbie Girl. On what planet was this ever a good idea?! She looks as creepy as she sounds and to make matters worse you can now find them listed on eBay as 'Blonde Barbie Video Doll Spy Camera." Spy camera – gross.
This is one of those products that never needed to exist, it’s a testament to the strange world of the mid-2000s where technology was advancing at an astonishing rate and people wanted to see how it could be harnessed. Kids cameras are a great way of getting your young ones into photography (or even videography) at an early age but a Barbie Doll camera isn’t the answer.