Replace the Nanny With China’s iPal Robot Companion | Tech News
iPal is more than a robot: it’s an educator, a companion, and a greeter.
Unveiled at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show Asia, the child-sized bot is getting a lot of attention for its babysitter-esque capabilities.
As reported by AFP, iPal speaks two languages (English and presumably Mandarin), gives math lessons, tells jokes, and interacts with humans through a six-inch screen in its chest.
Standing 3.5 feet tall—eye level with a four-year-old—the motorized machine is basically a wheeled nanny cam: Parents can pair a smartphone to hear and see everything iPal does.
Manufacturer AvatarMind Robot Technology, however, wants users to think of iPal more as a buddy.
“The idea for this robot is to be a companion for children,” Tinguy Huang, co-founder of manufacturer AvatarMind Robot Technology, told AFP. “When a child sees it, he or she will think of the robot as a friend, as another child in the family.”
Whether teaching through Android learning apps (iPal can answer most kiddie questions or download answers when necessary), showing off nimble dance moves, or recording your child’s growth spurts, this robot is more refined than the neighborhood teen looking to make a few bucks from weary parents.
It certainly costs more: The base version sells for $1,999, while the “enhanced” model is $2,499. Customized business versions are valued at $10,000. A daunting price tag hasn’t deterred some potential buyers, according to AFP.
“They’re pretty cute. I was just thinking my own two-year-old daughter would love one,” Mike Stone, a customer from Australia, said.
China’s long-standing one-child policy (raised to two in 2016) has created a culture of small families, often unable to care for children or elders during working hours.
Enter iPal, built for wee ones and senior citizens, offering company and camaraderie to those who need it most.
“I don’t think the robots can replace parents or teachers,” Huang said. “But iPal can be a complementary tool to relieve some of their burden.”
The robot can even remind folks to take their daily pills or sound the alarm in an emergency.
AvatarMind also envisions a future in retail and hospitality, where the androids can green children at a toy store or provide guest services in a hotel.
iPal began shipping in China late last year, and was scheduled for release in the US this May.
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