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How technology connects us to family life.

12/02/2018

How technology connects us to family life.

Despite their many faults, the Simpsons are strangely enough the epitome of the perfect nuclear family. That is, a family unit made up of mother, father and children with father going to work while mother stays at home. Today, this concept is becoming a thing of the past with no type of household arrangement taking enough priority to be classed as average.

So, say goodbye to the nuclear family and hello to the postmodern family. There are two main characteristics of this new family. The first is diversity and fragmentation with people creating their identity from diverse choices as subcultures, sexual preferences and social movement. The second is the way technology has transformed the way everyone now lives their lives, breaking down barriers with regards to time and space to merge the line between home and work.

Working around work

We are paying the price of living in a work-orientated culture. The result is that it is harder than ever before for all types of families to spend time face to face with loved ones. In fact, UK Millennial parents are almost as twice as likely to feel burnt out than parents aged between 36 to 45 years old. Also, almost 40% of them would take a pay cut to enjoy an easier lifestyle.

Technology comes home

As people spend more time working, technology is playing an increasingly important role in keeping them connected with their family. Smart devices are making their way into our home and with them come ever new ways to create a communal family experience. As Julie Michaelson, head of global sales at Baby Center confirms, “When we talk to parents, we always hear how stressed they are every day. IoT (Internet of Things) devices and voice controlled technology are making their lives easier, and at the same time, helping them feel like better parents.”

Reducing the stresses of life

Technology is being used, not to replace what parents do, but to help them achieve a better work-life balance. Its aim is to reduces stress so they can enjoy a more relaxing family life.

One example of how technology is trying to achieve the smart crib. This hi-tech crib recreates the feeling of being in the womb. It is thought that newborns feel most comforted during the first few months of their lives when they hear white noise, feel movement and are swaddled, which are the three things a smart crib gives them as and when they need it. The result is a content baby who sleeps better, which in turn creates more content parents who also sleep better.

Another way technology can help parents is through “telepresence” in VR. This is the ability for hardworking parents to interact with their children as if they were present when work means they can’t be, using the power of virtual reality. One of the ways being developed to achieve this is through virtual story telling using a virtual headset. Here, parents read their child a story, and both of them can interact in a virtual world.

Learning with AI

Of course this is just the start of AI interaction with young children and where it could go is anyone’s guess. Though one insight is by taking a look at the home of Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. In a unique look into his home life, or rather how he’s brought his home to life, he showed his artificially intelligent assistant called Jarvis. Custom made, Jarvis wakes his daughter up to Mandarin lessons after it has used visual face detection to work out that the infant is awake. That is of course, just one of the many things it can do.

Technology to the rescue

As well as helping busy parents, technology is also being developed which acts as an emergency support system when families are not together.

For example, you can now purchase small smart “panic button” style devices to carry . These can be about the size of a penny, and sounds the alarm if the button is given three clicks. The wearer has immediate and easy access to the emergency services day and night – this is perfect for, say, an elderly family member who lives alone. These devices also use geolocation to ensure helps knows where it is going, which is useful if a family member is heading somewhere unfamiliar. The panic buttons have been designed to be small enough to be out of the way when not needed, yet still easy to get to and use when it is.

Technology in a range of different guises is being developed to help today’s family. The hope is that it will bring them closer even when the pressures of modern life means they have less time together.

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