Now that technology is sufficiently advanced, Chinese parents are entrusting some childcare and parenting duties to AI robots.
Except for the sexism that continues to persist throughout the market, toys have evolved a lot in recent decades.
Children are now having fun with new tech-heavy toys — a trend that has only grown stronger with the digital revolution.
Dolls, fire trucks, electric trains, and many other toys are not just “lifeless” miniature replicas of their real-life inspirations like they used to be.
For one thing, electronic chips have become omnipresent in toys, adding more and more features, functions, and interactivity to them.
But this was only the start of the toy tech revolution. Now, artificial intelligence is taking robotics by storm.
Some worry that AI robots could speed up the process toward the Singularity while others see it as a way to improve processes without the need for increased manual labor.
In these budding years of the AI revolution, China is becoming a powerhouse in the world of AI and robotics.
AI Babysitter Wanted
With only 68 installed machines per 10,000 employees, China doesn’t appear in the world’s list of top 10 most automated countries, only ranking 23rd overall.
China’s robot density is way less than South Korea, for example, the world’s leader, but it’s still the most dynamic market sales-wise.
However, this metric only focuses on industrial robots, but there’s another segment that’s been experiencing strong growth — home robots, specifically childcare robots.
The only child policy has left many solitary children in China, and some companies are now making a foray into the lucrative niche of childcare robots.
In an effort to promote social growth and language development, many Chinese companies are creating robot “pals” for young children.
One such robot designed as a companion to children is AvatarMind’s iPal.
iPal is a childcare robot who speaks Chinese and English, plays quiz games, gives math lessons, and tells jokes to young children.
Toddlers can interact with iPal via a screen in his chest.
For parents in the US who want an iPal for their children at home, AvatarMind says the “pricing for the US is $2499 for the standard version of iPal” (and $4999 for customized business versions).
At the CES event in Shanghai last summer, iPal was one of the educational androids unveiled along many other robots that walked on the runway.
AvatarMind says iPal is a:
“humanoid robot that serves as a social companion, educator and safety monitor for children, as well as elder adults. It also has many other applications in specialty care, educational and commercial settings. iPal is designed to supplement the work of parents, educators, caregivers and people in other capacities to extend their reach and positive impact.”
It may be a long time before AI babysitters replace human nannies for good, but what would parents do then if they hand over all their parenting duties to robots?
There is also the question of how reduced interaction with parents and other humans may affect the development of these young minds.
Studies have already clearly shown that electronic use amongst toddlers can affect their sleep cycles and overall development — could constant interaction with a robot exacerbate these issues?
The iPal is not the only home robot on the market right now, and trends show that it won’t be the last.
Parenting and childcare are far more complex than just entertaining your child with an interactive program with preset functions. Robots still lack that human touch.
However, it is inevitable that electronic and robotic use is only going to increase in the future, but questions may soon need to be raised about how much involvement is too much.