Okay, it had to happen eventually. Before you know it, your precious little Geeklet daughter turns into a gawky, tween-age Geekgirl, who is thrown headlong into the wild, wild world of Middle School. What comes with Middle School? Enrollment in 7th Grade Health Class. And what comes with Health Class? Lessons about babies.
Don’t get me wrong! GeekMom and I (okay, mostly GeekMom) have had "the talk" with our daughter many, many moons ago. Actually, it was much less "the talk" as it is "the ongoing conversation." In any event, GeekGirl knows where babies come from and is duly fascinated, if not slightly unsettled, by the entire process.
But I digress…
No, what I am talking about is far more insidious. It is the intersection of where sex education meets technology; where human procreation meets infant mimicry. I am talking about *cue dramatic music* the Attack of the Infant Care Baby Simulator!
For those GeekDads out there who have not had the pleasure of this experience, let me share a few of the sordid details: It began with picking up my daughter from school. She emerged from the school building as usual, juggling a backpack full of school books, her musical instrument case in one hand and… oh yeah… a baby carrier in the other.
I was forced to do a mental double-take.
That having been said, this was not altogether an unexpected event.
I had signed the waiver the week prior stating that it was okay for our child to bring the electronic baby home. I had acknowledged on the form that it was an expensive piece of education technology. I had agreed that we would be financially responsible if anything should happen to it or to any of its’ accessories. I knew this was coming.
But once again I digress…
The RealCare® Baby is a life sized, and life weighted, newborn baby simulator. It comes in a baby seat with a bottle, two diapers, and an ID key that the tween-age caregiver wears around his/her neck. Once the baby is activated, your child has roughly two hours of peace and quiet before the first programmed "event" takes place. This and all subsequent events are announced by the playback of recorded baby cries, played on a continuous loop, and at a very, very life-like volume.
Your child’s mission, if s/he chooses to accept it, is to figure out what to do, in under two minutes, to make… the… recording… stop!
This baby is packed with all sorts of technology. It has a patented head and neck assembly which have to be properly supported at all times. There are internal devices which report whether the baby is being handled correctly, is not being shaken, etc. It also contains sensors which are triggered by using the bottle or changing the diapers.
To stop the baby from crying, the child must first use the ID key to ensure that only the assigned caregiver is the one responding. The baby then emits an ear shattering "beep" which is remarkably louder than the recorded cries themselves. The child then tries to feed the baby with the bottle. If the baby is hungry, it stops crying and begins emitting an alien sounding gulping noise. If that doesn’t work, than the child can try changing the diapers (it can tell one from the other) or
"burping" it. If all else fails, then the baby needs to be rocked.
However, if the child does something wrong, like pulling the bottle away before it is finished "feeding," the recording switches from a very loud cry to an ear piercing shriek. This tends to disconcert the caregiver, as well Mom and Dad, siblings in the next room, the family pet, people jogging by the house, etc. All the while, the baby records everything that happens to it like a soft, vinyl-covered black box.
The events continue throughout the night at random intervals. The bleary-eyed caregiver then returns the baby to school the next day. The baby’s recorded care data is then uploaded by the teacher to be graded.
My daughter was apparently one of the lucky ones. She was only awakened once during the night. Her only real close call was when the baby cried to be fed as she arrived at school. She and Geekmom had to wait in the parking lot an extra 15 minutes while the baby electronically gulped invisible formula. Fortunately, they had arrived at school early that day.
One of my daughter’s classmates reportedly had to get up four times during the night with her baby. No word yet as to the condition or her parents or siblings…
As sophisticated as the Sim Baby is, I couldn’t help noticing a few
"events" it was lacking. For example, there was no simulated projectile vomiting, or any spitting up at all for that matter. There was no mystery fever or unsettling rash which would only appear after the pediatrician’s office was closed. If the baby were not so expensive to replace, a father/kid baby hacking project to add such events could prove to be quite a hoot!
Then again, maybe not. I would not want my daughter to get too freaked out by this whole experience. It would be nice to have some Grand-geeklets one day…