You might have heard that El Segundo toy giant Mattel Inc. plans to release a Wi-Fi-enabled Barbie that will be able to converse with kids.

Turns out, the iconic blond bombshell will have some local competition: West L.A. toymaker Genesis this month introduced My Friend Cayla, an 18-inch-tall, Internet-connected doll that can understand and reply to a child in real time.

The doll launched in Europe last year and, thanks to strong sales abroad, Genesis has inked distribution deals with domestic big-box retailers including Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart.

Peter Magalhaes, general manager of Genesis, said the doll connects to the company’s proprietary encyclopedic website and can answer questions such as “Who is George Washington?” and “Where is the Eiffel Tower?” Kids can also play games, such as tic-tac-toe and memory, against Cayla using a phone or tablet.

“Our original intent was to create the world’s best talking doll,” Magalhaes said. “Today’s generation expects more than just a preprogrammed response, so combining Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, apps and voice recognition, it becomes the first real-time talking doll.”

My Friend Cayla speaks English and Spanish and retails for about $60. Shoppers download the doll’s free app for Apple or Android smart devices to access play features and can pay an additional fee to download additional languages such as French and German.

– Subrina Hudson

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