Childcare robots are being manufactured and developed with the long term aim of creating surrogate carers. While total childcare is not yet being promoted, there are indications that it is ‘on the cards’. We examine recent research and developments in childcare robots and speculate on progress over the coming years by extrapolating from other ongoing robotics work. Our main aim is to raise ethical questions about the part or full-time replacement of primary carers.

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The questions are about human rights, privacy, robot use of restraint, deception of children and accountability. But the most pressing ethical issues throughout the paper concern the consequences for the psychological and emotional wellbeing of children. We set these in the context of the child development literature on the pathology and causes of attachment disorders. We then consider the adequacy of current legislation and international ethical guidelines on the protection of children from the overuse of robot care.Who’s to say that at some distant moment there might be an assembly line producing a gentle product in the form of a grandmother – whose stock in trade is love.

From I Sing the Body Electric, Twilight Zone, Series 3, Episode 35, 1960 


no one can deny that technology play a big role in our daily life , technonolgy reached above the predicted limits, one of the latest technologies is robot nannies . is it future or fiction? Can robot nanny be as good as human nanny? What is advantages and disadvantages of robot nannies? What is the current capabilities of robot nannies. All of this is important must be asked and consdired in applying robot nannies; Sharkey and Sharkey included all o this in their interesting paperpaper.

the distinction between attachment (bond formation) and expectations of availability and responsiveness (security) within attachment relationships has many factors to consider in comparison first the current technologies and abilities of robots as every day new technology occurs and new capabilities added to robot nannies , until this moment available technology capable to produce part time child carer (robot nanny) so bonds now is completely focused on human as the current technology is not capable to produce nannies with this capabilities.

Besides that robots as attachment figures until now is very limited according to robots technology although robot nannies may be used for old adults as well not only children

Psychological damage must be consdired as well is robot nannies is dangerous for children what are the risks of using robot nannies? and also deception of the producing company and the parents can not be neglected ; to be more specific deception that theproducing company is afraid of misuse of the robot nannies and the parents deception in robot capabilities.

Literature review

According to [1] Robots are similar to standard toys, video games and medicine; the main point of similarity that all of them have usage regulation and some guidance; for an example “Not recommended for children under X years old”, “Do not use without the supervision of an adult”, or “Do not use for long periods of time”

[2] stated that robots are intelligent machines which cause no physical harm and also protect the child ; but psychological harm isn’t that simple to avoid because it depends on many other factors such as the child’s predispositions or even to insensitive parenting.

Also[1] stated Children under 5 years old could be damaged psychologically due to the extended use of robots in caring ,specially when the the robot is a main care giver, unfortunetly many parents would do this which leads to un balanced emotional and social development for the child; on the contrary according to [1] there isn’t any psychological damage to children above 5 years old when the interaction between the child and robot is regulated properly , in this case the interaction is very useful for the child and the parents. The main useful usage of the robot when the parents are busy the robot nanny will fill this gap with their children increase the child curiosity in many fields such as science , technology and creativity in general. Also robot nannies will occupy the child time such that child will be much more entertained at home which protect him from bad influences (e.g. street gangs and drug dealers);

As result , the robot as a nanny has different effect on the child according to the child age therefore , usage regulations must be analyzed depending on child’s age.

There are many points w must consider and analyze it well to avoid misuse of robot nanny for the safety of the child.

One of these points is the ethical usage of stored data and information the main point w must concern as stated in Sharkey and sharkey’s article the children’s privacy , to be more specific pictures and videos taken by robots must be analyzed and used well therefore parents have to control this data not anyone else to make the point more clear for an example robots will store children activities in school as the children must have privacy these public recordings must be destroyed but as I mentioned only home robots can store data and be under supervision of the parents otherwise the same the criteria must be applied. As a result of these points concerning privacy must be law enforced and also force specific regulations to these stored data

One of the major problems that robot nanny might help fixing it is that the child is left by himself for a long time according to [1] the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “Every Day thousands of children arrive home from school to an empty house. Every week thousands of parents make decisions to leave children home alone while they go to work, run errands, or for social engagements. It is estimated over 40% of children are left home at some time, though rarely overnight …” (AACAP, 2009).

Also the USA 2002 Census survey 9.75% of all children between the ages of five and fourteen years spending between 2-9 hours home alone (Overturf, 2005).

Children affected by this situation are called latchkey children: “latchkey kid or latchkey child refers to a child who returns from school to an empty home because his or her parent or parents are away at work or a child who is often left at home with little or no parental supervision” (Wikipedia, 2009).

As result of this improper care occur to the child causing physiological damage from being continuously left home alone with no one to talk with ,therefore they become socially isolated also this problem can get much bigger rustling higher levels of behaviour problems as mertens [1] stated problems such as depression, and lower levels of self esteem than other children.

Also the child become totally unprotected from alcohol and drug abuse and also from the emergencies as the child is left alone most of the time; it is stated [1] that these physiological damage are more often to latchkey children.

One of the effects on the child future career is that their academic efficiency is 10% lower especially in middle grade than the others that are properly are cared and raised by their parents.

As the majority of parents ignore published medical guidelines (van dewater etal, 2007) they will also ignore robots guidelines as well[7]; S&S investigate do parents get back from their work to their child, to be around their child and give them attention the answer is the majority of parents can’t do that. Therefore robots could be a useful tool used as compliment for human care not a replacement because robots can’t handle emergencies there for someone responsible must be there but robots w supply attention without stress or exhaustion.

Robots are not as same as dogs and TVs that they respond to children according to their actions but one of major difference between robots and human that robots are following system of rules which make them predictable to the child but we must concern that robots increase the attention defects to the child which increase bonding issues with parents and friends as TV

The child ability to form friendship, romantic relation and generally dealing with the society is based on their ability to bond with their parents. So if the child is raised by a robot and most of the time he interact with it , the child will be used to deal with predictable reactions and will prefer dealing with machines to human because he won’t understand human way of thinking because he is not used to it

“There is a very real chance that protracted experience of AI Might in fact enhance a child’s understanding of themselves and what it means to be human” (Bryson & Kime, 1998).

Besides these physiological damages the child is bored most of the time which make him to try to access adult websites and it become much easier for the child because the lack of surveillance and also the phenomena of pregnant teens will occur much more due to improper parental control.

So we have to fight these problems as [1] introduced that “. Robots, together

With other mechanisms, such as after school community programs, could play an Important role in avoiding or reducing these situations. As already mentioned, the

Availability of a robot nanny to interact with children can be very beneficial for them. The robot nanny can provide entertainment, companionship, supervision

And educational support (motivation, information, housework support, help with repetitive exercises, language training, etc.), and even moral advice, although probably not in the near future.


According to [3] attachment is significant relationship completely different than friendship and any other type of relation. [3] Stated that attachment is specified by 6 main points which is preference, familiarity, (relative uniqueness, identity, use as a secure base, and grief and mourning in response to loss. uncertainty is one of the main points that made attachment figures more preferred than others.

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The difference between robots attachment and human relationships that robots consternate on very few variables in the attachment with one person such as availability and responsiveness , but human relation has very large range of variable and dimensions that rule the relation like neighbours ,friends , classmates and relatives not only for few people as robots .

Besides human can differentiate between identities very good not as robots following rules that is fixed because human is not fixed their availability and responsiveness depends on their mood and this robots wouldn’t understand it in these day with current available technology

According to [3] attachment figure is someone who is used as secure base which robot trust their actions and activities and follow their orders; therefore attachment figures is a good step in robots as a nannies besides attachment figure play a big role in development and adaption of robots.

Finally as robots don’t really understand relationships because only human brain understand these reltin so robots use attachment as replacement for relationships which robots difrreniciate attachment by distinctive response of human.

Therefore robots are not replacement for parents despite they protect the child from any physical harm but psychological harm cannot be neglected; physiological damage can be avoided as much as possible be calling for discussions with the parents and scientists.

Insecurity [3]

Robots are supplementary carers can support confident expectations of availability and responsiveness (secure attachment); as illustrated in [5] robot and parents can be explained by great example which id doctor and nurse relationship; the doctor (parent) give order and totally responsible for the decisions but the nurse (robot) only follow the instructions that the doctor had given. Therefore as explained robots must be supervised and given orders to operate well. So robots give results to the parents and sometimes in emergencies it call parents which is perfect ability which make parents more comfortable .

Finally reports are very good complementing for the parents not replacement

Deception will be largely self imposed

According to [4] robots as a start will be sold as toys and surveillance devices not as parents aiding devices; companies will do that in the beginning as a test for robots and not be responsible for any damage besides a warning sticker will be put on the robot as any other device “This device is not a toy and should only be used with adult supervision,”

Or “This device is provided for entertainment only. It should not be considered educational or to replace responsible supervision.” But shortly human will find robots a good nanny to leave there children with as they leave them with TVs, dogs and other children.

In addition to warning sticker is required to specify maximum time to leave the child with the robot but as always it will be ignored as child games and TV unless the children might get addicted to this machine.

Robot nanny’s sensors [5]

If anything, robot nannies should sense children’s emotions; cf. Donovan et al. (1978) and Siciliano & Khatib (2008, Chapter 58). As Dautenhahn, Bond, Cañam ero, & Edmonds (2002, p. 6) stated: “Agents that can recognize a user’s emotions,

Robot nannies display meaningful emotional expressions, and behave in ways that are perceived as coherent, intentional, responsive, and socially/emotionally appropriate, can make important contributions towards achieving human-computer interaction that is more ‘natural’, believable, and enjoyable to the human partner.” This statement is in line with the general notion that emotions are the missing link in AI and human-robot interaction (Broek et al., 2010; Healey & Picard, 2005; Picard, 1997).

Emotions cannot be ignored; they influence us, be it consciously or unconsciously, in a wide variety of ways (Picard, 1997; Vinciarelli, Pantic, & Bourlard, 2009):long term physical well being; e.g. cardiovascular issues (Frederickson, Manusco, Branigan, & Tugade, 2000) and our immune system (Ader, Cohen, & Felten, 1995); physiological reactions/biosignals (Agrawal, Liu, & Sarkar, 2008; Broek et al., 2010; Donovan et al., 1978); e.g. as present in communication; cognitive processes; e.g. perceiving, memory, reasoning (Critchley, Elliott, Mathias, & Dolan, 2000); and behavior (Vinciarelli et al., 2009); e.g. facial expressions, speech (Gelder, 2009; Zeng, Pantic, Roisman, & Huang, 2009), movements, and touch (Bailenson, Yee, Brave, Merget, & Koslow, 2007; Gelder, 2009; Poppe, 2010).

Children, being in development, are more vulnerable to influences on each of

these levels than adults are.

Automated emotion recognition, also known as affective computing, can be realized through the recording of various signals that humans transmit continuously (Broek et al., 2010; Picard, 1997; Vinciarelli et al., 2009) and that can be perceived through a robot nanny’s interface; see Figure 1. As Sharkey & Sharkey (2010) mention, the most often employed techniques comprise computer vision, movement analysis, and speech processing. However, each of these techniques, has its drawbacks, in particular in ambulatory settings such as those of robot nannies:recording and processing of facial expressions assessed through computer vision techniques suffer from changes in light; e.g. causing a lack of contrast or shadows (Zeng et al., 2009; Gunes & Piccardi, 2009)movement analysis requires continuous tracking, which is often not feasible in practice (Gunes & Piccardi, 2009; Poppe, 2010), and speech processing (Broek, Schut, Westerink, & Tuinenbreijer, 2009; Zeng et al., 2009) suffers from severe distortions (e.g. environmental noise, multiple voices in parallel).

These concerns limit the feasibility of emotion recognition by robot nannies significantly. Hence, either other signals need to be identified for emotion recognition or emotion recognition in the wild is not possible (Broek et al., 2010). A possible solution lays in what William James already noted in 1893, humans are psycho neuro physical mechanisms, who both send and perceive biosignals that can be captured; e.g. electromyography, electrocardiography, and electrodermal activity. These biosignals can also be used to reveal a range of characteristics of people, among which are emotions (Broek et al., 2010; Friedman, 2010; Healey & Picard, 2005; Picard, 1997).

Biosignals have the additional advantage that they are free from social masking (Broek et al., 2010). Moreover, nowadays, they can be measured by non invasive unobtrusive sensors, which makes them suited for child care (Broek et al., 2010; Thiemjarus & Yang, 2006). So, biosignals could act as an interface between infants and their robot nanny (see also Figure 1, which could provide robot nannies with the information to develop empathic abilities.

However, it should be noted that biosignals, computer vision, movement analysis, and speech processing have some other serious drawbacks. The children differ in how their emotions and the accompanying signals are related (Stemmler & Wacker, 2010). Moreover, their personality can play a significant role in how the emotions are expressed through biosignals (Broek et al., 2009; Stemmler & Wacker, 2010).

Although combinations of either computer vision and speech (Zeng et al., 2009), computer vision and movements/touch (Gunes & Piccardi, 2009), computer vision and biosignals (Bailenson et al., 2008), or speech and biosignals (Broek et al., 2009) are still rare, initial results are promising. Hence, such a triangulation of emotions could possibly be a solution to the problems mentioned (Broek et al., 2010), which make the development of a robot nanny’s interface (see Figure 1) very complex. However, as with most research towards affective computing, these studies were conducted in (semi ) controlled environments. One of the rare truly ambulatory studies conducted illustrates the complexities that arise with affective computing in the wild (Healey & Picard, 2005). Hence, it is unknown to what extent they are of use in ambulatory settings such as those in which child care takes place.

More recently, brain computer interfaces (BCI) have became popular (Gerven et al., 2009; Nijholt et al., 2008). BCI can be considered as advanced, massively parallel biosignal (e.g. EEG) recording and (real time) processing. BCI could be an interesting interface for robot nannies since significant results have already been reported in neuroscience concerning emotions (Gelder, 2009); e.g. with respect to mirror neurons, as is also mentioned by Sharkey & Sharkey (2010). This new field of research is starting to develop its guidelines (Gerven et al., 2009), and massive investments are being made to ensure future progress. However, so far, BCI has not redeemed its promises and is too obtrusive and noise sensitive for ambulatory applications such as robot nannies.

ϵ. Conclusions

With this discussion on robot nannies, a range of aspects of AI were taken into

account; see also Figure 1. Once more, it was illustrated how brittle AI’s advances

are. In particular, the lack of integration of various paradigms and processing

schemes is striking. AI seems to be scattered in itself and knowledge transfer

between its subfields is limited. To enable the determination of (lack of) progress,

recently, an initiative on benchmarks for human-robot interaction was launched

(MacDorman & Kahn, 2007). Specific benchmarks should be developed for robot

nannies. Such benchmarks would facilitate the development of a general prog-

ress indicator for robot nannies and for AI and robotics in general; cf. Siciliano &

Khatib (2008, e.g. Chapter 50).

As Sharkey & Sharkey (2010, p. 177) state, “While it seems unlikely that a robot

could show a sufficient level of sensitivity to engender secure attachment, it could

be argued that the robot is only be standing in for the mother in the same way

as a human nanny stands in. But a poor nanny can also cause emotional or psy-

chological damage to a child.”. Regrettably, no other conclusion can be drawn than

that good, reliable robot nannies are beyond current state-of-the-art AI. Even with

the progress ahead and vast investments being made, it is questionable whether

the time will come when robot nannies will take care of children. So, the question

remains, will robot nannies be something of the future or will they remain fiction?

In summary, we believe that the use of robots for childcare needs to be regulated

and that studies such as the one presented in the paper under analysis present

important elements and concepts to be used in the discussion of the specific regu-

lations. We also think that it is very important to analyze carefully the pros and

cons of using robots for childcare. In the case of latchkey children, older than five

years old, we feel that the use of robots for childcare could be very beneficial.

Isaac Asimov’s (1940) short story ‘Strange Playfellow’ describes how a young girl

called Gloria forms a strong attachment bond towards Robbie, her robotic carer.

Even with the nearly 70 years of technological development since ‘Strange Play-

fellow’ was published, robots with the capability of Robbie are still an unrealisable

fiction. In highlighting this reality gap between possible future aspirations for

robotic carers and their present potential, Sharkey and Sharkey have stimulated

interaction between robotics and attachment study, and helped clarify what are

worthwhile and achievable aims for current research. Considering how and why

currently achievable robots might fail as carers for human infants is to the advan-

tage of both robotics and attachment theory. This is because to answer these

questions involves firstly considering the developmental requirements for, and

functions of, attachment relationships, and then considering how human carers

fulfill these requirements and functions.

Although robots will not be effective sole carers of infants in the near term,

they may find useful roles in extending the range and quality of care that humans

can provide and enriching childhood exploration and also in providing care for

older adults and individuals with special needs. We agree that each of these appli-

cations has ethical dimensions, even if the stakes for robotic carers are less high,

and may avoid the hazards which Sharkey and Sharkey set out in their interesting

analysis. Many existing examples of human-robot interaction involve only short

term interactions. Sharkey and Sharkey have taken a useful step toward explor-

ing the full range of robot human interactions and promoting interdisciplinary



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