Mattel scraps controversial ‘virtual nanny’ device

The US-based toy manufacturer Mattel has decided to scrap its controversial ‘virtual nanny’ system, Aristotle, following privacy concerns being raised by a number of campaign groups.

As we reported in January, Mattel announced plans at the start of the year for what it thought could have been a highly lucrative product – an artificial intelligence-powered device which had multiple functions designed to, in the company’s words, “aid parents…to make it easier for them to protect, develop, and nurture the most important asset in their home – their children”.

The various functions of the Aristotle device were supposedly to have included the ability to sing lullabies and tell bedtime stories, as well as being able to gauge when a particular product (such as nappies) was running low and automatically reordering them.

Perhaps most controversial of all, however, was the small camera which came with the device and was supposed to have acted as a visual baby monitor. Campaigners were quick to express their worries that the camera – as it was part of a connected device – could potentially have been breached by hackers.

“Aristotle isn’t a nanny, it’s an intruder”

In July, Mattel appointed a new chief technology officer – Sven Gerjets – who decided to review the feasibility and reputational risk of releasing Aristotle, eventually coming to the conclusion that doing so would not have been worth the potential consequences.

Gerjets’ choice will no doubt have been influenced by the extremely negative press Aristotle has received from some quarters ever since it was unveiled in January: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an influential US group, released a statement arguing that “Aristotle isn’t a nanny, it’s an intruder. Children’s bedrooms should be free of corporate snooping”, as reported by the BBC.

Mattel’s decision will no doubt be welcomed by the many experienced and highly qualified nannies and other domestic household staff – and their employers – who will be all too aware that there can be no real substitute for the care and compassion of a real guardian.

Image Credit: Jenna Norman

Six-figure salary and supercar access offered in nanny job advert

Interior of Maserati

In August, a job listing for a nanny appeared which gained hundreds of applicants in a matter of days. The reason? Well, that may have something to do with the $129,000 salary, access to a range of supercars, and regular meals provided by a Michelin-starred chef being offered.

The perks available to those who successfully fill household staff vacancies advertised by the rich and famous are well-known, but it would be fair to say that the benefits of this particular job may surprise even the most experienced of nannies.

The family, who are based in London but also have homes in Barbados, Cape Town and Atlanta, have four children between the ages of two and 15, so whoever the successful applicant is will certainly have their work cut out for them, even if the rewards associated with the job are substantial.

Despite the high number of applicants, however, the family may struggle to find the Mary Poppins-like individual they are intent on hiring, as the job requirements include having a certificate in self-defence, 15 years’ nannying experience, and a degree in child psychology.

13-hour days await successful candidate

The advert also includes a warning that the successful candidate will be expected to work for 13 hours each day (this in itself will not come as a shock to the thousands of hard-working nannies across the UK), and may need to travel internationally up to three times each week.

Anyone who has already worked as a nanny will, of course, already be aware that it is not always a life of glitz and glamour, and can indeed be one of the most challenging of all occupations.

Indeed, Business Insider’s personal finance correspondent Tanza Loudenback was quoted in this Independent article as saying that “research on affluence suggests children coming up in wealthy households have ‘comparable levels of delinquency’ to lower-income households”. All potential applicants should be aware, therefore, that just because they will be well-remunerated, being a nanny is never a walk in the park.

Image Credit: Pietro De Grandi

Would you take £50,000 for being the nanny in a haunted house?

Ghost

If you speak to any nannies or other household domestic staff about what they think is the most challenging part of their job, they may provide any number of answers: meeting high expectations, juggling responsibilities and impeccable time management are all things that successful household workers need to become experts at.

It is unlikely, however, that constantly being bothered by ghosts would rank very highly on the list of most nannies’ complaints. Nevertheless, this is exactly the reason why a family based in the Scottish Borders are desperately struggling to fill the otherwise attractive vacancy in their household – a job which is now worth £50,000 to the successful applicant.

This bizarre story – which has been reported on by a number of media outlets, including the Telegraph – came to light when the family in question advertised the role online. After it was noticed that the listing offered a surprisingly high level of remuneration, the mother of the two children who require looking after felt compelled to explain the situation: ‘Five nannies have left the role in the last year, each citing supernatural incidents as the reason, including strange noises, broken glass and furniture moving’, she said.

Family ‘Happy to pay above the asking rate’

The stories surrounding the supposedly haunted house have inevitably led to questions over why the family continue to live in the property, but the parents remain defiant despite their unenviable record at retaining nannies, explaining how their home is ‘lovely, spacious [and] historic…with spectacular views’.

Insistent that the family themselves have not been on the receiving end of any nasty supernatural surprises in their almost 10 years of living there, the mother added that she understood why securing a long-term employee has been difficult, and that the family is ‘happy to pay above the asking rate, and feel it’s important to be as up-front as possible’.

The job involves looking after a five and seven-year-old pair of siblings and, at the time of writing, is (unsurprisingly) still open to applicants!

Image Credit: Jordi Carrasco

World’s first virtual nanny unveiled by Mattel

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

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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The rise of the male nanny

The rise of the male nanny

Female nannies have dominated the industry and it is almost tradition to employ a female for the role. However, now the male nanny, also known as ‘Manny’, is becoming a popular alternative for many, with celebrities such as Britney Spears and Gwyneth Paltrow enlisting the help of male individuals to take care of their children whilst away.

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The many benefits of Mud Therapy

If you are looking to relax while enjoy a bit of pampering, a trip to the spa is one of the best methods of doing just that. With a host of treatment types available, getting away from the stresses of the work place couldn’t be easier. One of these styles is mud therapy, and while many might discredit the benefits of plastering mud all over the body, you will be pleasantly surprised how it can help; these are just some of the best.

Inflammatory properties

Offered at Titanic Spa, a Yorkshire health spa, one of the key benefits of having mud therapy is for coping with inflammation, as the mud and its minerals – including Sodium, Potassium and Magnesium – are known to alleviate aches and muscle pains. Studies have even shown that mud therapy can also help with the spinal condition of people who suffer from spondylitis, a painful condition which is caused by the inflammation of the vertebrae.

The removal of toxins

Mud therapy can also be great for removing toxins, especially as the mud used can draw out these pollutants and impurities that constantly attack the body. If these toxins sit in the body’s fat layers and are allowed to accumulate, they are known to cause serious harm to the biological process, so it’s best to remove them at all costs.

Exfoliation of the skin

As well as removing harmful toxins, the different types of mud and volcanic ash can also help to exfoliate and nourish the skin. As well as cleansing the skin, the natural mud can battle against the ageing of the skin – meaning that the skin will continue to look younger for longer.

Image Credit: lsantilli (Shutterstock.com)

The right manicure for you

 Image Credit: James Lee (flickr.com)


Image Credit: James Lee (flickr.com)

Whether you have an event to go to or your hands have been under a lot of strain lately and could do with some pampering there are a number of treatments available to suit both wants.

People are often under the misleading impression that manicures are just for special occasions where people want their nails to really shine and compliment their outfit. While getting your nails done is an all-important part of the preparation on your wedding day or school formal, the luxurious experience of having your hands pampered at a luxury spa in Yorkshire is equally enjoyable.

Hand and foot therapies

As well as being able to get a manicure to have your nails made beautiful with polish or acrylic, there are a number of treatments today that can have your hands and feet looking equally stunning. With Handcleanse, Handsilk Exfoliare, Handrestructure Masque and HandRenew Liposomes included amongst contemporary treatments, there is no excuse for your hands not to look their best as such treatments help your hands look and feel softer, smoother, firmer and overall more beautiful.

Similarly, pedicures can ensure that your feet as well as your toenails are up to the mark. Thermal heated boots are often used now for deeper penetration of oils and creams, softening cuticles, improving circulation and stiff joints.

The perfect polish

Once you have the strong base of beautiful hands and healthy nails you can then think about what beautiful nail design you want to complement your look. From the classic French Manicure to the range of colours and designs available, the choices are endless thanks to contemporary products, techniques and nail technician talent, including gels, traditional polishes and acrylics.

The use of heat and ice in spa treatments

Image Credit: Kyle May (flickr.com)

Image Credit: Kyle May (flickr.com)

The use of heat and ice has long been a part of relaxation techniques in the world of spas and pampering, but today there is a whole host of different packages and treatments available that take advantage of its beneficial properties. These new treatments use what was learnt in ancient Roman times and have developed to become one of the most popular kinds of spa packages.

The history

A far cry from the experiences now available from health spas in Yorkshire, the use of varying temperatures dates back to the Roman baths where they had separate baths including a cold bath (the frigidarium), a warm bath (the tepidarium) and a hot bath (the caldarium). These were meant to counteract each other where the warm bath would prepare the user for the hot bath, in which they would sweat, acting as a way of ridding the body of dirt. The cold bath was then used as a way of cooling down and cleansing the body.

Today

Today, not all that much has changed as the basic concepts of heat and ice treatments remain the same. Many spas that offer such treatments also have their own gym facilities, much like the ancient Romans did; they used areas dedicated to exercise before the series of hot and cold baths for a completely rejuvenating experience.

Known for cleansing and beautifying the body as well as helping with muscle aches and pains, heat and ice spa treatments in contemporary times use the principle of heating and cooling the body to induce deep relaxation.

Organic treatments to enjoy at the spa

Image Credit: Jag_cz (shutterstock.com)

Image Credit: Jag_cz (shutterstock.com)

‘Organic’ has crept into the spa world over the years and has left many people asking themselves what makes organic treatments and products better than others? And what is the difference?

There are many reasons to opt for an organic treatment during a health spa weekend in Yorkshire for both health and personal benefits and this article offers an introduction into world of organic treatments and products to enjoy during your next spa break.

Why Organic?

As previously mentioned, there are a number of reasons to choose an organic treatment: to begin with, they can be far kinder to your skin and offer a solution to those with sensitive or troubled skin conditions as they avoid using products that are made from synthetic materials and chemicals.

This means that these treatments are often better for the environment, not inhumanely tested on animals and promote fair trade, making them great for both your body and mind.

There has been research to suggest that every day we use over 250 different chemicals on our skin; this can be harsh on the skin and often result in a less than desired effect. Organic treatments can offer a natural and effective alternative.

Treatments

There are a range of spa treatments that use organic products which offer a natural fragrance whilst achieving the results you would expect from a professional treatment. From massage oils that can be moisturising and provide a relaxing natural aroma to body scrubs made from organic sugars and oils that can exfoliate and buffer the skin to perfection, organic spa treatments can offer complete relaxation and peace of mind towards the environment and your beauty regime.