Meet Moxie: The AI nanny new-age parents are using to teach kids emotional and social skills

Meet Moxie: The AI nanny new-age parents are using to teach kids emotional and social skills

Passing the torch of social education... to a robot

CultureMay 20, 2020 By Will Brendza

They say you can’t put a price on a good education — that teachers who can sit down and talk with a student, get them excited about their projects, interested in the world, and interacting with their peers are invaluable assets — something that could never be replaced.

But that isn’t stopping the folks at Embodied from trying.


Meet Moxie: the artificially-intelligent robotic nannie that is hoping to become your child’s next best friend. For the affordable price of just $1,499, you can fire your child’s tutor, and lock your little-one up with their new instructor, who only needs a battery, and will never bother you for a raise.

Moxie is a leap forward in artificially-intelligent child development technology. It’s a robot that talks, moves, makes animated facial expressions (similar to Pixar expressions), and is programmed to contain all kinds of educational lessons in mindfulness, weekly themes and missions to explore “human experiences, ideas, and life skills like kindness, empathy, and friendship.” It helps build verbal confidence by encouraging kids to read stories to it; it promotes kindness and, according to the website, “teaches social and emotional skills.”

How about that?

It’s odd. Right? Because, while Moxy might be programmed with some really good points about friendship, and while it might help a kid practice their oratory skills, it seems both lazy and disingenuous to leave some of the most important aspects of a child’s developmental education to a toy. These are skills that have been passed down by mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, nannies and teachers since the dawn of time. Now we’re passing that responsibility off to some plastic computer interface? We’re leaving emotional and social education to robots?!


Now, one might argue that this is a tool, something to be used in combination with real life person-to-person education. Moxie isn’t here to replace our teachers, and commandeer our youths’ education. Moxie is here to help.

For now.

But follow the trajectory of this technology. This is just the first incarnation of a robot like this, and it will surely be developed much, much further as time goes on (just think of how far the iPhone has come since its first generation). No doubt Moxie-like robots are going to become advanced enough to replace human teachers outright, at least when it comes to transferring general knowledge.

And, honestly, it’s hard not to imagine some parents abusing this technology. Why pay for a sitter all night when we’ve got Moxie? Why should I spend my whole day home-schooling my child, when we’ve got Moxie? Why do the kids need to be let out of the basement, when we’ve got moxie down there?

It's very likely, there would be instances of children being left alone or outright neglected because… well, we’ve got Moxie. 

This is a very strange place for society to be arriving at. When we’ve created an artficially-intelligent "teacher" that can take over the education of our species, the question arises: are we playing with an electrical fire? The person-to-person, human-to-human, face-to-face oral and written forms of education we’ve developed, have been in practice for hundreds of thousands of years — we've evolved with them — and even still, they are imperfect.

By comparison, these virtual, digital, artificially-intelligent forms of education are brand new. They shouldn’t be feared, and they shouldn’t be ignored if they have the potential to help kids learn about the world. But they probably shouldn't be built to replace the person in the room.

Which, when you watch this Moxie advertisement, you’ll see, is exactly what this robot is intended for.

No one knows what that could do to a young person’s development — but chances are, we will know soon enough.