World’s first virtual nanny unveiled by Mattel

Sleepig baby

Anyone who has worked for – or hired the services of – London-based domestic staff agencies will know that nannies and other private household staff do not have an easy job. Looking after somebody else’s children is surely one of the biggest responsibilities that someone can have; it is quite amazing, therefore, that the American toymakers Mattel have just released details of what they hope will be the world’s first successful ‘virtual nanny’.

As reported in the Mail Online, Mattel’s new ‘Aristotle’ system – which is scheduled for release in June of this year at a retail price of $399 – is designed to mimic the actions that are carried out by traditional nannies without any ongoing cost.

According to the company, Aristotle will recognise when a baby wakes up and will be able to send it back to sleep by playing a lullaby or other favourite song or emitting a night light; it will automatically log when a parent changes their child’s nappy or feeds them, and can reorder supplies accordingly; it can play games with the child via a voice recognition system; and it will allow parents to check their babies are OK via video link.

The device is designed to be compatible with Amazon’s Alexa system, which means owners of the Amazon Echo should not have much trouble getting used to interacting with it. Amazon’s shopping platform is even built into Aristotle, and parents can switch between whether their device responds to them or their child by simply saying ‘Alexa’ or ‘Aristotle’. As the makers point out, this is an important feature to ensure that children do not accidentally order items such as nappies when they are not needed!

Mattel have responded to the inevitable questions about security with reassurances that its Aristotle device will be fully encrypted and virtually impossible for hackers to compromise.

Of course, no matter how advanced this technology is, we are confident that there can be no true replacement for the skill, compassion and experience of a good nanny. As anyone who has employed a professional nanny will know, there can be no substitute for the real thing!

Image Credit: Andrew Malone

Will Amazon Prime customers soon be getting butlers?

Capture

If you are a regular user of the Amazon shopping website, it will not have escaped your attention that the retail giant is pushing the benefits of its Prime membership scheme with a great deal of enthusiasm.

Even the most loyal of brand advocates, however, will surely be surprised by one service that may shortly be available to Prime customers: personal butlers.

The various adverts across the site and beyond which have been encouraging shoppers to sign up to the loyalty programme since 2007 (yes, it did launch in the UK almost 10 years ago!) tend to emphasise Prime’s quick delivery times and access to exclusive content, but not the chance to make use of ‘Amazon Assistants’ – at least, not until now.

First spotted in November by Angel Gonzalez of the Seattle Times, two American job vacancy listings were recently posted by Amazon which asked to hear from applications who would be interested in ‘helping Amazon customers keep up their home’.

Specific tasks listed in the job description which the successful applicants ‘will become awesome at’ include ‘tidying up around the home, laundry, and helping put groceries and essentials like toilet paper and paper towels away’. All of which seems to suggest that what the business is really looking for is expert household staff like experienced or aspiring butlers who will be able to ensure that Amazon customers, in the company’s words, can live ‘errand-free’ lives.

Just a stunt?

The idea that this is at least partly just an experiment or maybe even a marketing tactic to entice more Prime members came from a line in the ad which states that the future employees would be expected to provide ‘timesaving assistance to Amazon Prime members’.

However, a Business Insider UK article spotted that the reference to Prime was actually removed from the listings later on.

Whether or not the vacancies are filled and whether Amazon – who are yet to comment on the story – continue with their new employment drive, one thing is for sure: this development reinforces the notion that butlers and other household staff are back in fashion and are now once again appreciated by busy modern families.

Can robot nannies really replace the real thing?

RobotMany of us dream of having a robot assistant that can supersonically complete the more mundane chores of daily life. Although technology is developing every year, this dream remains elusive – no dusting maids, no waiting butlers occupy the average household. However, an altogether more complex task usually reserved for caregivers and domestic staff may be delegated to our robotic companions in the near future.

According to recent reports, there is a new robot on the scene – the “robot nanny”, and it may soon be making its way into urban households. According to Mobile Mag, these affordable robots will be able to “bottle-feed babies, change diapers, and even iron the kids’ clothes.” Created by Avatar Mind, the new robot nanny is called iPal and is equipped with the mind (learning engine) of an adult but with the general conversational capacities of a four- to eight-year-old, allowing it to better relate to the child.

“The robot’s mind is also set to remember a child’s likes and dislikes and uses this knowledge to improve conversation”, says Mobile Mag. “Its super brain is also keen on always researching on the internet to learn more about topics that are interesting to the child.” Avatar Mind claim that not only is the robot created to take care of a child while handling minor tasks like ironing and folding  clothes, but is also able to replace the hours of digital entertainment many children are exposed to in the modern day.

But can robots really replace nannies?

In her article for The Week, Ruth Margolis emphasises that, although the idea of her children playing with an interactive robot rather than staring at a screen is appealing, it is important to remember that: “iPal is designed exclusively for the three-plus set and it’s a glorified toy rather than a robot sitter. You shouldn’t actually leave a child — of any age — in its care.” Agreeing with this sentiment, QZ says, “The robot essentially serves as a glorified baby monitor and that’s perhaps its most useful feature: it not only keeps children engaged, but gives parents the power to check on children remotely and even video chat with them through the tablet embedded in the iPal’s chest, which runs Android applications. In the future, the robot could provide a convenient lens for caregivers to look over children with special needs or the aging elderly population at times when they cannot be physically present.”

Despite its potentials, even Avatar Mind themselves insist that “it cannot replace a babysitter.” Madeline Duva, an adviser to the company, says that iPal ought to only be used to occupy a child for a brief period. Similarly, as QZ report, researchers from University of Lisbon have found that children need actual human role models to help them develop cultural values, master a sense of morality. No matter how sophisticated robots become, they cannot replicate the social values that a real human nanny will pass on to children in their care.

Mobile Mag points out that other experts are concerned that long-term exposure to robots instead of humans may cause some psychological effects on the child. They also ask:

“While that may seem like a good thing given that robot nannies don’t need to call in sick or ask for vacation leave, there are other important aspects to consider. How will iPal react if a fire breaks out? Can it squish poisonous spiders nearing the child? What will it do if the child is choking?”

These questions remain unanswered, so Mobile Mag suggests that, rather than investing in the risks of a robot, “it’s time to give your present human nanny a pay raise and better sick leave benefits.” If you are in need of household staff or nannies, remember that only human beings can truly understand your family’s unique needs and provide the human contact that children need to grow into fulfilled adults. A nanny agency will be able to find the perfect employee to not only fulfil all of the daily chores as efficiently as any computerised being, but also provide the empathy and bond that a growing family needs. We may be in the computer age, but there are some things that code cannot replace.

Private chefs are the secret to dinner party success

Private chef

Image Credit: Chrisda (VisualHunt.com / CC BY)

The secret to hosting a truly successful dinner party is in hiring a private chef, according to a recent article in The Standard. In the piece, Rosamund Urwin explains that, despite her best efforts as a solo host, the pressure of pleasing her guests overwhelmed every occasion until she decided to enlist professional private household staff.

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Norland Nannies, where are they now?

Nanny

After starring in the ITV documentary “Britain’s Poshest Nannies” in 2014, Norland College has become one of the most famous childcare colleges in the world. Following the journey of Set 36, a group of students learning the academic foundations and practical skills of becoming a prestigious nanny and preparing for high-end employment, the show was watched by millions of viewers who were intrigued by the traditional yet pioneering training these aspiring nannies received.

But, from deciding on the right family to join to searching for the perfect nanny agency to represent them, the Norland graduates had many challenges to take on after the series went off air. So, where are the Norland Nannies now?

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Characteristics of a successful nanny

Characteristics of a successful nanny

 

If you are looking for a career through a nanny agency in London, then you will want to know what it takes to build the characteristics of a successful nanny. For some it may come naturally, but there are always ways in which you can improve on your skill set to be a head above the rest when it comes to potential employment.

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Interview tips: How to prepare for a Skype interview

Interview tips

 

Work and travel commitments may mean that face-to-face interviews aren’t possible for you or your future employer. However, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a great opportunity. Skype interviews are a common occurrence in circumstances such as these and allow you to interact virtually with the individual who is hoping to hire you. So, here are some useful Skype interview tips for your next call.

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