Babysitting in nuclear families is becoming a challenge the world over. High daycare expenses and finding reliable nannies has become a bone of contention. In situations like these, parents in Japan and China are beginning to rely on technology for baby support with babysitting robots becoming a more feasible… (Featured image is for representational purpose and has been sourced from https://pxhere.com/en/photo/494502)
Babysitting in nuclear families is becoming a challenge the world over. High daycare expenses and finding reliable nannies has become a bone of contention. In situations like these, parents in Japan and China are beginning to rely on technology for baby support with babysitting robots becoming a more feasible option.
A study conducted by P&S Market Research suggests the rise of personal robots in the global market from $3.8 billion in 2015 to $34.1 billion by 2022. This has resulted in a 27% decline in the average price of a babysitting robot between 2005 and 2014, and it is likely to drop further by about 22% between 2015 and 2025 (Ref), boosting sales.
Key market players
AvatarMind a Chinese company founded in 2014 developed a robot called iPal. The three feet tall iPal has moving arms, working fingers and a touchscreen tablet on its chest. The robot can sing and dance. iPal, is powered by 19 sensors and 25 motion controllers across eight circuit boards and can talk to children. Parents can closely monitor their children through the video conferencing/ chatting module. iPal’s emotion management system senses and responds to happiness, depression, and loneliness, ensuring a child is safe.
Avatar has filed 10 patent applications in China. While none of these describe applications specific to babysitting robots, most applications cover technology related to AI and robots such as automatic charging of robot, power management system for robots, and security inspection by robots, establishing indoor maps by robots, etc.
Panasonic developed a ball-shaped android robot that can tell sleepy children to go to bed, download songs from the cloud to sing to little ones, and help a child’s educational development. Panasonic has filed various patent applications related to basic functionalities of autonomous robots. However, specific mention of babysitting robots does not seem to be present. Panasonic has filed applications related to movement control in robots, collision detection in robots, security systems in robots, industrial robots, etc.
Kuri is a robot nanny created by the Bosch-backed startup Mayfield Robotics. Kuri is equipped with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 1080p cam and wheels designed to traverse any interior flooring. There is no patent associated with Kuri.
Japanese technology majors Sony and NEC are developing robots that may be leveraged for child care. Robots such as Sony’s Qrio and NEC’s PaPeRo (Partner-type Personal Robot) have been measured substantially in childcare activities. Sony and NEC have also filed various patent applications related to autonomous robots.
NEC Corp has a filed a patent US8376803B2, which specifically mentions about a child-care robot. A robot acquires a child behavior pattern. It then selects one of the robot action patterns which is associated with the acquired child behavior pattern and performs the selected action.
Patent US8376803, assigned to NEC Corp., discloses a childcare robot. The robot includes a memory to store various childhood behavior pattern, a sensor to acquire a child behavior pattern and determines actions, including making a call to parents.
Sony has filed a patent US8972054B2 which describes a warning method related to nearby objects to a user. A robot can generate an environmental map covering a wide area. It then sets cueing points in the environmental map and provides cues to the user in an audible or visible form based on the user’s behavior. E.g. the robot gives a warning to a person approaching a near-by object so that the person avoids collision, tripping, and falling.
A recently application CN106625722A by Kunshan Krkai Artificial Intelligent Tech Co Ltd discloses an infant intelligent nursing robot. This robot can execute commands via a remote control, smartphone and voice, it can collect items for young children, prevent children from getting injured, etc.
Robot nannies are designed in such a way that it helps children develop independence and critical-reasoning skills, as well as explore their own unique talents. Parents can log into the robot via the Internet using a smartphone and can direct the robot or monitor children through its cameras.
Can Robots Overpower Human Acuity?
While the concept of robot nannies is very intriguing, there are certain drawbacks that parents need to be aware of and prepared for. Robots are machine and they do not have emotions or conscience, they lack empathy. They might not know how to react or respond in a tricky situation such as when a child is choking or is throwing a tantrum due to a tummy ache.
There is a high risk of hacking robotic software where a child may be exposed to anti-social elements in any part of the world. A robot can suggest stories or promote products to a child, or make unwarranted recommendations. And once a child gets attached to a robot, it may be difficult to wean the child away from it.
It will be some time before human acumen and prudence can be replaced by artificial intelligence. Until then, it’s still a gamble of parenting.
(Featured image is for representational purpose and has been sourced from https://pxhere.com/en/photo/494502)