The rise of artificial intelligence in child care
Published on Wednesday, 05 August 2020
Last updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2020
Caring for a child requires empathy, patience, dedication and all those other human touches, but as we zoom further into the 21st Century, technology is taking a more hands-on role in all our lives and artificial intelligence has real-world functionality.
AI is already making Siri, Alexa, Tesla, Amazon and Netflix smart at knowing what we want to do, buy and watch; and developments in this field indicate that AI can also help humans care for children.
Here we look at four innovations that use AI to assist with child care and early learning.
Muse is an AI-powered mobile app that asks parents daily questions to help them enrich their child’s life (e.g. ‘Has your child eaten a serving of a new food today?’).
It provides fun, research-based activities, plus deep insights into the child’s learning and development. And instead of trying to replace human empathy with artificial empathy, this app concentrates on the connection between child and care-giver.
The daily questions are designed to develop the traits that will predict better life outcomes for the child (such as emotional intelligence, self-control, persistence and resilience), and Muse aims to assist adults in giving children a, ‘Happy, healthy and impactful life.’
Muse is currently focused on parents of zero to 12-year-olds, however, there is scope for this thinking to extend to the child care setting, and the Muse team is already working on developments tailored to children with special learning needs.
This AI-powered robot is intended to be an early educator, and millions of BeanQ ’bots are already living in middle class households in China.
Unlike traditional toys, BeanQ is designed to provide ongoing stimulation for children using its ‘living, ever changing’ AI.
The robot is voice-activated and it responds to a child’s questions and wants with simple words, straightforward phrases, and a range of emoji facial expressions that are displayed on its screen.
CNN says that BeanQ, ‘Builds up a detailed profile of a child through hours of daily interactions, allowing parents to analyse their child’s development.’
Although it’s not supposed to be a substitute for a real live care-giver, BeanQ also features a ‘remote babysitting’ mode which turns the robot into a moveable nanny. This means it can take photos of a child and put them online for a parent to see while they’re at work. BeanQ also allows parents to video chat with their little one.
RoBoHon is another AI-powered ’bot and its manufacturer, Turing Robotics, says this ‘robot phone’ doesn’t just take voice commands and spit out encyclopedia entries. Instead, ‘It has emotions. It's playful, headstrong and mischievous. It initiates talks and shifts the topic in conversations. It has the ability to learn.’
RoBoHon has successfully engaged with autistic children at a hospital in China, the hospital’s deputy dean says that RoBoHon is, ‘More tolerant than most humans of the hyperactivity and repetition shown by many children with autism.’
Not everyone is sold on AI-powered robots, though.
Some experts dismiss them as, ‘Low-end smart phones for overworked parents’ and others are worried about the child safety and privacy implications of all that online data. Still, this is a rapidly growing market, and many parents do see the value of AI education devices for their children.
Bosco is a mobile app that works to allay general concerns about online data because it uses AI to predict and prevent digital threats to individual children.
To do this, Bosco collects data from the child’s mobile activity, location and social networks to build a unique behavioural profile for them. This profile factors in the child’s age, gender, culture and behavioural traits, and Bosco then uses ‘predictive intelligence’ to foretell and forewarn parents about online threats to their child.
Bosco says it’s, ‘Algorithms continuously learn and improve over time’ to find potential threats, and it aims to help parents to monitor their children’s digital use and guide them around any red flags, without impinging on their privacy or freedom.
The upshot of all this, is that human care-givers aren’t going to be replaced by robots any time soon, but artificial intelligence is already part of many families’ lives.
Forbes suggests that we’re entering the age of digital child care, and although artificial intelligence is no match for human connections, there are more and more ways that technology is learning how to help us care for children and encourage their health, happiness and success in the 21st Century. Stay tuned!
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