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Sunday, 4 June, 2000, 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK
Cyber dolls set to take over
Dolls AP
Dolls could join a generation of "intelligent" machines
Dishwashers and Barbie dolls will soon be using the internet to better themselves, according to a leading cyberspace expert.

Professor Nicholas Negroponte predicts household machines and toys could be downloading information and creating more online traffic than humans within the next five years.

Advances in technology will give familiar creature comforts the artificial intelligence to access software upgrades to regularly re-programme themselves, making them the internet's main users, he said.

Our children will learn French from Barbie

Professor Nicholas Negroponte
Professor Negroponte revealed his techno vision at a London business seminar hosted by, the free change of address service for home movers.

"In three to five years, the largest community of users of the internet by far will be washing machines, dishwashers, freezers and toys," he said.

"They will reach out to the internet for their intelligence and their performance will be enhanced by it."

Barbie lessons

Professor Negroponte's 1995 best-seller Being Digital has been translated into more than 40 languages.

He could get a little help with future publications.

"Barbie Dolls will be intelligent, networked toys that will be able to speak any language," he said.

Professor Negroponte believes machines will dominate internet use
"They will be able to educate themselves by downloading different language software from the internet using mobile internet capability that will be built into them.

"It could be that rather than learning French from a teacher, our children will learn French from Barbie."

The hi-tech prophecies of Professor Negroponte, a director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) media lab and founder of Wired magazine, include washing machines or dishwashers which can be updated online, negating the need to buy new ones.

They will simply connect to the internet and download the latest washing programmes to match the particular fabrics they are cleaning and washing powders being used.

Professor Negroponte, who believes more than a billion people will be on the internet by the end of the year, said payments could even be taken online for each individual wash.

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