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Talking Tom and Friends is a series of digital pet companion applications featuring 3D animated characters that can interact with the users in different ways, such as engaging in two-way conversations and automated voice-recording for instant playback. Since its launch in 2010, Talking Tom has grown into a franchise of virtual characters and expanded from mobile apps to YouTube singles, animated web series and merchandises.
In October 2009, the interactive application company Outfit7 was formed in Slovenia by a group of eight entrepreneurs. On June 26th, 2010, the company’s flagship app Talking Tom was released for Apple iOS devices, featuring a 3D-rendered cat which repeats words spoken by the user.
On January 12th, 2011, the Talking Tom cat application gained widespread notoriety after appearing in Season 2 Episode 12 of the television sitcom Modern Family. In the episode, a woman seated at a dinner table demonstrates the app’s ability to repeat recorded audio (shown below).
That year, several other spinoff apps were released for Android, iOS and Kindle mobile operating systems, including Talking Tom 2, Talking Ben, Talking Pierre, Talking Love Letters and Tom’s Love Angela. On June 12th, 2012, Disney Music’s YouTube channel released the music video “You Get Me,” featuring Talking Tom and his romantic interest Angela (shown below, left). Within the first three years, the video gained more than 152 million views and 28,000 comments. On December 6th, Disney Music uploaded a teaser for another Tom and Angela music video titled “That’s Falling in Love,” which accumulated upwards of 7.2 million views and 1,600 comments in two years (shown below, right).
In May 2011, the Talking Tom 2 app received over 2.58 million downloads within four days of release. By October 2013, Outfit7’s Talking Tom and Friends applications had accumulated a combined total of 1.2 billion downloads worldwide.
Talking Angela Hoax
In February 2013, several messages began spreading through email and Facebook status updates claiming that the Talking Angela application threatened children’s safety by collecting personal information, photographs and making inappropriate remarks.
“WARNING FOR TO ALL PARENTS WITH CHILDREN THAT HAVE ANY ELECTRONIC DEVICES, EX: IPOD,TABLETS ETC …. THERE IS A SITE CALLED TALKING ANGELA, THIS SITE ASKS KIDS QUESTIONS LIKE: THERE NAMES, WHERE THEY GO TO SCHOOL AND ALSO TAKE PICTURES OF THEIR FACES BY PUSHING A HEART ON THE BOTTOM LEFT CORNER WITHOUT ANY NOTICES. PLEASE CHECK YOUR CHILDREN’S IPODS AND ALL TO MAKE SURE THEY DO NOT HAVE THIS APP !!! PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON TO YOUR FRIENDS”
On February 19th, an article about the messages was created on the hoax-debunking website Snopes, reporting that there was no reason to suspect that the application was a threat to children’s privacy. On the following day, Redditor vivalo submitted a screenshot of a post claiming that the app was being used as spyware for a pedophile to the /r/facepalm subreddit (shown below). In the coming days, several news sites published article about the hoax, including The Guardian,USA Today and IBI Times.
The Guardian – What the Talking Angela app is really saying to your kids
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