Robots have probably intrigued you since they are common characters in sci-fi films from the servile robots that do manual labor and other jobs in I, Robot to the almost human characteristics of droids in Star Wars. In fact, in the last 10 years, robots are being manufactured to take on more complicated tasks than just being factory hands. And in fact, a whole new line of robot will soon be manufactured as a “robot nanny” that may soon make its way into urban households. These affordable robots will have the ability to bottle-feed babies, change diapers, and even iron the kids’ clothes. The new robot nanny is called iPal and it’s made by Avatar Mind, a company with offices in China and Silicon Valley (something to be cautious about since these nanny robots will be Chinese-made). iPal is soon set to become the new name in childcare providers. Generally, the robot will have the mind (learning engine) of an adult but with the general banter of a four- to eight-year-old so the robot can better relate to the child.
The robot’s mind is also set to remember a child’s likes and dislikes and uses this knowledge to improve conversation. Its super brain is also keen on always researching on the internet to learn more about topics that are interesting to the child. iPal is also programmed to determine emotion through feeling, touching, and listening to the child’s speech. If the child seems unhappy the robot nanny will attempt to cheer him or her up. If the child is happy then the robot is happy too. According to Avatar Mind, not only is the robot made to take care of a child while handling minor tasks like ironing and folding child’s clothes, but is created to somehow replace the hours of mindless television entertainment that children are bombarded with these days. However, there are a couple of features in the robot that have raised red flags with children’s rights advocates. For instance, the iPal automatically takes pictures or videos of the child “for monitoring and safety purposes.”
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While the images are meant to help parents keep a watchful eye on the child, Avatar Mind has not made it clear if anyone else can access the footages from the robot by external means. Also, some experts are worried that long-term exposure to robots instead of humans may cause some psychological effects on the child. Some experts also do point out that should robot nannies go full tilt into the market, they could soon replace real human nannies the way automobiles replaced the horse and cart. While that may seem like a good thing given that robot nannies don’t need to call in sick or ask for vacation leave, there are other important aspects to consider. How will iPal if a fire breaks out? Can it squish poisonous spiders nearing the child? What will it do if the child is choking? So, while the numerous bugs on this robot nanny are still being weeded out, perhaps it’s time to give your present human nanny a pay raise and better sick leave benefits.