• Dr. Timothy Smith

Would You Leave Your Child with a Robot Babysitter?

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For many young parents, leaving their children with a family member so they can get out of the house to have dinner, run errands, or simply get away for a while comes as welcome support. For other young parents without family or a trusted friend, they rely on babysitters. The babysitter may be the son or daughter of a family friend or even from a babysitting service. Many worry, especially the first few times that they leave the kids. Worries include the kids’ safety, what they may see on TV, whether they will eat the right food, get cleaned up for bed, get to bed on time, and even if the babysitter will pay attention or just spend time on their smartphone. I remember having a babysitter who, after my parents left the house, let her boyfriend in the house and told us to beat it while they spent the evening making out on the couch. Nothing terrible happened to us; however, lousy babysitter stories abound and form the gist of many comedies and even horror stories such as the funny 1987 movie Adventures in Babysitting and the 2017 horror movie The Babysitter. Given all the variables involved in leaving your children in the care of a babysitter who may be just a little older than your own children makes some parents take pause. But what if the baby sitter, instead of being human, came in the form of artificially intelligent robot nanny?

Would you leave your kids in the care of a machine specifically designed to care for children? Robots do not let their attention wander and will not be distracted by smart phones or boyfriends. The robo-nanny may arrive as a child care option sooner than imagined. A company called AvatarMind produces the iPAL Robot. The robot looks like a little three-and-a-half-foot tall humanoid robot weighing twenty-eight pounds that can walk, talk, and move its robotic hands. According to the company, iPAL can “talk, dance, tell stories, play games, encourage physical activity, and enable them to chat with friends, share videos, and safely connect to the internet and social media.” Videos depict children dancing and leaning to count with the robot.

A dedicated nanny-bot would do well with the kids engaged, but it would also be taxed when it comes to discipline. Not all kids remain well behaved while the parents go out. Many a babysitter faces the challenge of wild, out of control kids. The nanny bot of the future could come equipped to mete out punishments such as no movie if the kids do not eat their dinner or control of the WiFi to get obstinate pre-teens out of their rooms.

All parents need time away from the house for a simple date night or to see friends without the children, and the care of the little children falls most often on the shoulders of a babysitter. Many babysitters do a great job, but not all do. Babysitters can be expensive and, at worst, not take good care of the kids. Robotic child care has already hit the market with iPAL, which may only entertain kids now but may be developed to be a full time nanny, programmed with artificial intelligence to protect and care for children. What would it take for you to trust the care of your children to a robot?

Dr. Timothy Smith

Dr. Smith’s career in scientific and information research spans the areas of bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, toxicology, and chemistry. He has published a number of peer-reviewed scientific papers. He has worked over the past seventeen years developing advanced analytics, machine learning, and knowledge management tools to enable research and support high level decision making. Tim completed his Ph.D. in Toxicology at Cornell University and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of Washington.

You can buy his book on Amazon in paperback and in kindle format here.

How to Profit and Protect Yourself from Artificial Intelligence