Robots can do many things humans can do, often better (though that’s a debatable point). They mix cocktails, stand in for security guards and dispose of bombs. One thing we're sure they can never do better: care for our kids.
They can’t snuggle, kiss boo-boos or exhibit unconditional love, not like a mom or dad or child care worker can. But that didn’t stop the makers of iPal from creating a creepy nanny robot that they’re billing as a babysitter. It’s a 3-foot-tall talking bot, complete with a surveillance cam, a touch screen tablet and tons of apps, you know, to keep your kid occupied and happy when you can’t.
Avatarmind, maker of service robots with offices in China and Silicon Valley, designed iPal to be a “friendly companion to play with and talk to naturally.” The company’s humanoid mother’s helper can “dance, tell stories and play games.” If all that isn’t enough to keep your kid busy and quiet – and out of your hair – no worries, the robot also enables them to live-chat with their real-life buddies, swap videos and peruse social media, all without in-person parental supervision.
Like a real babysitter, the pastel-trimmed iPal learns what your child likes and dislikes over time and, unlike a real babysitter, can constantly scrape the cloud to “increase its knowledge on subjects of interest to your child.” The thing even plays “rock, paper, scissors” using its hard plastic jointed fingers. Aw, what a gregarious, doting little droid.
Oh, and should your mini-me ever ask the rolling machine heavy kid-questions such as, “Why is the sun hot?” you bet iPal has a pre-loaded answer on deck. Let’s hope your little one doesn’t ask it where he or she came from. We’re just guessing here, but that’s probably a doozie that iPal isn’t cut out for, which is a shame, because the birds-and-bees talk is an awkward topic to broach. Best to leave it to a bot.
Speaking of parenting tasks that suck, iPal understands that most mundane daily parental duties are also a drag. We’re talking morning and bedtime routine and hygiene stuff, such as nagging your kids to wake up, get dressed, brush their teeth and wash their germ-filled hands before meals. Don’t fret, it has apps for all that.
In case you’re worried that iPal lacks the feels, Avatarmind assures it has the sensors for that. After all, “iPal is not a cold, unfeeling machine, but a great companion for your child.” Its handy-dandy “emotion management system” automatically detects and reacts to your wee one’s feelings. That’s because it’s programmed to mirror your kid's mood when he or she is happy and to cheer him or her up when sad.
Finally, it’s got artificially intelligent algorithms and robotic canned empathy statements to the rescue. What more could a kid ask for?
Parents looking to save a buck on a real-life babysitter will have to wait to find out how much all this hard-wired plastic convenience will set them back. We can’t imagine it’ll be cheap, what with pretty much a good chunk of your child’s upbringing in its metal-jointed robot hands and all.
Would you still trouble yourself with all that parenting drama when there’s a bot that can do the duty for you?
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by Entrepreneur.com.ph.