I was sent an email about Mattel’s new ‘digital nanny’ called Aristotle, and in brief, this is a description of the product:
A “digital nanny” by toy-maker Mattel. An internet-connected device, which includes a microphone and camera, designed to live in a child’s bedroom from birth and be a constant companion as he/she grows up. Mattel boasts Aristotle can “soothe” crying baby, help toddlers learn to speak, and facilitate learning in older children.
The email asked “What is the impact on a child’s development when you replace a caregiver with a robot?” It was such a good question that I forwarded it to the most state-of-the-art techy dad I know, Bharat. Although he’s always busy, I’m delighted that he replied (thank you Bharat) and his thoughts are worth sharing with new parents who may be thinking about buying an ‘Aristotle by Mattel’ for their newborn/s.
From Bharat Karavadra
I started writing a reply but realised it would be quite huge, and to keep it brief…
Based on the information sent, it seems that Mattel is planning to release this toy with internet connectivity connecting the child, their behaviour, ‘their data’ to potentially any other company or individual that Mattel has such relationship with. This connectivity and transfer of data then seem to feedback to the child from ways such a change of behaviour of the toy, to other potential influence on the child such as other suggested toys or information sent to the parent.
However, it also seems from the information, that Mattell have forgotten the one quite important relationship that should be connected, and that is of the parent. The simplest observation is that there seems to be no way for the parent to change the behaviour of the toy, or receive the data for themselves to use it as they see appropriate.
So based on those observations, I would not, not for long anyway, put such a toy in front of my child or any other child.
There are however always exceptions such as if, with the toy and its ‘abilities’, a child could be provided with experiences to help them grow and which their parents could not otherwise provide.
Also, if the toy had the ability, it could also monitor the parent’s behaviour towards the child and take over or report a takeover of the child’s development, especially if the parents were destructive to that development.
These are however sensitive issues on the realms of education, responsibility, choice, decision, provision, etc for the child, and, if not the parents, it is subjective as to who should be making those decisions for the child in any given scenario.
Yes, the parent should be first in such choices and decisions but the toy does not seem to provide the parent to modify the toys behaviour and use the data it collects, but that Mattel and it’s relationships can.
The toy seems to be synonymous with giving a child a modern phone with camera, retina scanning ability, visual, audio, haptic feedback, etc connected to the internet, and for others to monitor the behaviour of the child and change the behaviour and output of the device depending on the child’s behaviour without allowing the parents to have any input in that process. On that basis and my perception, this toy is a not appropriate to leave alone with a child.
I hope that helps.