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Here in the U.S. most mothers have access to childcare when we're ready to return to work. We debate and cry and mommy-war over the decision to stay home with the kids or go back to our jobs. As difficult as this decision is, imagine how difficult it would be to have no choice.
In Japan, it's not unusual for there to be a two-year wait for admission to daycare. This puts job-holding women in a difficult spot when they start their families. Because access to childcare is a luxury not afforded to most, the majority of Japanese moms are forced to stay home with the kids, whether they want to or not. And their economy is suffering.
According to NPR, "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised to create 400,000 more daycare spots by 2017." But officials say that "eventually, robots will be able to take up and assume many of these tasks that women are currently doing at present."
Yep. Robot nannies. Coming soon, and forecasted to be sold for $1,900 is Pepper, a robot servant that can read human emotion and act as an "all in one babysitter," according to London Evening Standard. "Pepper is set to go on sale in February 2015. The battery life is 12 hours, so owners will have to put it on charge with their smartphones."
These robots will use the cloud to share data between them and learn from each other about emotions and human responses.
A programmable babysitter
As a (stay-at-home, mostly) mother to two little ones, I am equal parts horrified and amazed at this concept. The thought of having a robot I could essentially program to do my bidding regarding the kids while I'm gone makes me a little giddy. How many times have I dreamed of that quality in a babysitter? On the other hand, I know a robot cannot replace human interaction, no matter how "smart" it is. On a psychological level, I know my kids would suffer from that loss.
I could see using Pepper for a quick errand or even a date night. But no way can I imagine leaving my kids all day, every day with a robot nanny… No offense, Pepper, but I'm guessing you've not yet reached the level of Rosie from The Jetsons.
What about you? Would you choose a robot nanny over day care?