You can ask any parent and you’re likely to get the same response: sometimes they’re too damn tired perform, and it certainly is a performance, their kid’s favorite book for the one-hundredth time. Or perhaps their day isn’t going too well and they’d rather not answer a seemingly endless labyrinth of questions from their curious five-year-old.
Does that make them cold or a bad parent? Of course not. But before where parents might plop their little ones down in front of a TV playing Zootopia ad nauseam, 2017 will bring a series of robotic nannies to help lighten the load.
The only question is: are families ready to spend hundreds of dollars on a robot assistant? And, furthermore, would anybody be willing to shell out an additional $400 to have their very own Eve (see Pixar’s Wall-E) follow them around the house? Both Mattel, makers of the $300 Aristotle, and Mayfield Robotics, developers of the adorable albeit expensive Kuri, are hoping so.
2017 might just be the breakthrough year for artificial intelligence. The Amazon Echo was a hot ticket item during Black Friday and even sold out weeks before Christmas. It’s safe to say most people are accepting of and ready for the always-connected Echo in their homes, but at $50 for the Dot and $180 for the original Echo (which contains a powerful Bluetooth speaker) you can’t really go wrong.
Other smart home products have become even more affordable, such as the $250 Wi-Fi thermostat Nest or the $40 WeMo outlet that can make an electric product “smart,” so more and more people are making this transition. I recently made my foray into the world of the “smart home” and have been loving it. With that said, these upcoming robots seem to be priced a bit too high for me — then again, I don’t have kids. Only time will tell, and, in the meantime, one thing is sure: both products are really cool.
Launching in June, the Aristotle is a hybrid nightlight/sound machine, HD-video baby monitor, and personal robotic assistant that can read your child bedtime stories. It is one of the first smart devices built specifically for and meant to mostly be used by children. Mattel claims that, after completing the voice recognition training, Aristotle will be equipped to understand your child despite infantile speech patterns and limited grammar.
Don’t quote me on this, though, because I know if it is anything like Alexa your kid will end up angrily repeating themselves until they get the hang of it. Aristotle is meant to learn from you and your children as time goes on, but, like Alexa, I’m sure that means you too will have to learn the proper commands to make it operate smoothly.
I keep talking about Alexa but have yet to mention that Mattel’s new device actually comes bundled with both the Aristotle companion for your kids and Alexa assistant for you. The device can be switched to “Adult Mode” with a command from the parent and then Alexa will speak through the speaker rather than the young male voice of Aristotle.
Parents can then use it the same way they would Alexa; keep a to-do list, add baby items to a shopping list, play music, etc. One final thing to note about the Aristotle is that fun seems to be a very important factor. As Engadget put it, “Aristotle is also meant for play, identifying and reacting to natural play.” Mattel is apparently looking into ways of incorporating toys and kids’ evolving imaginations — this concept could sell me on Aristotle.
Mayfield Robotics Kuri
The Kuri is similar to Aristotle in that, at least from what we know right now, it can do all of the same things and more. One big difference is that Mayfield has created a physical, twenty-inch robot that drives itself around your house while Aristotle is just a disembodied voice that talks through a speaker. Similar to Aristotle, Kuri also has an HD-camera and can play music, but it is a mobile security device/music player.
Another positive (or negative, depending on how you look at it) is that Kuri has a somewhat humanoid face that can actually emote, potentially making it a better companion for a young child. Even better, Kuri has face and voice recognition so it knows who is in the room with it and who is talking.
It appears Kuri features the same technology that is prevalent in robotic vacuums as, according to Engadget, it can avoid stairs and other objects. It will also return to the charging dock on its own. All in all, Mayfield Robotics’ Kuri seems like the superior option but the real question is whether the physical “body” and mobility are worth costing twice as much as the Aristotle.
The Kuri will retail for $700 and Mayfield is currently taking $100 deposits if you would like to reserve yours now. Kuri is slated to released sometime during the 2017 holiday season.