The Millennium ExperienceChronicle of the Future

Barbie queue

05.12.05: TOY SHOPS across the British Isles have been forced to ration Living Barbies ­ intelligent dolls that help children with homework. The existence of "corrupted" dolls has not diminished their popularity.

When ordering the doll, parents specify the child's age, academic ability and interests. A CD-Rom with appropriate educational material and games is then supplied with the doll.

The child can ask the doll thousands of questions. The Barbie, which incorporates speech-recognition software, uses an infrared link to the child's PC to download information from the disk and talk her through homework. If the disk does not contain the right information, the doll can use the PC to access an educational web site. Living Barbie can also chat to its owner, becoming a virtual friend.

There were concerns whe