Yes, the legendary Freddie Mercury was right. Last month The New Yorker magazine published an article titled “Learning to Love Robots” and it got me thinking. A few days later I saw a Facebook post about Pearl’s Memory Babies. The two ideas started swirling around in my head.
When my daughter was in high school, she had a homework project that involved caring for a robotic baby. The baby cried to be fed, cried to be changed, and was generally as needy as a real newborn. Since it’s been more than a few years ago now, I wanted to see if they are still made. Yep, the “Ready-Or-Not Tot Baby Manikin” retails for a mere $307.95. The tot comes pre-programmed to demand attention for periods of 5 minutes to 30 minutes at a time over a 48-hour time frame. My daughter bombed the project after leaving the baby in the car seat too long, ignoring it’s cries, and generally being extremely inattentive.
From electronic babies, my brain leap frogs over to robots, not frog robots just robots in general! While several robots of varying price points were featured in The New Yorker, I was most intrigued by Paro available for $6,400 (yes, that’s six thousand four hundred dollars). He’s described as, “a furry baby harp seal the size of a small duffelbag that autonomously wriggles and turns its head, swishes its flippers, and bats its eyelashes, responding to the sound of its name, being moved, the flick of its whiskers”. He sounds pretty adorable to me!
Pearl’s Memory Babies has gotten a lot of attention on social media following this video:
The babies used by the organization can be purchased from Amazon for around $30 and are available in three different skin tones. The doll is described as a “20 inch happy baby doll for lots of squeezing, holding, and cuddling ”. There’s nothing robotic about this tot, but is is awfully cute! (FYI: The organization also delivers puppies using the same care concept.)
The idea that babies, seals and puppies can have such a remarkable effect on the elderly is so simple that it’s profound. Who would think it? This Christmas consider the gift of a baby doll to someone who needs someone to love! Oh, I almost forgot to tell you… that cuddly seal Paro? He’s recently been ruled by the F.D.A. as a Class II medical device!
As for my daughter… I’m pleased to say that no permanent harm came to the robotic baby. Today, she is a school teacher and a great Mom to three, with number four on the way!