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Society Robot seal used in stress, anxiety therapy

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Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
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Isn't that exactly the news we expect from Japan? Paro (パロ), one of the world's most successful therapeutic robots, is successfully used in elderly care as well as stress and anxiety treatment. The seal's body, whiskers and nose are outfitted with visual, tactile and auditory sensors. Using artificial intelligence, it can recognize its surroundings and respond to being rubbed with corresponding sounds. The robotic seals can remember their nicknames and react to them when called. And if kept long enough, they even eventually develop their own habits.

In preliminary trials, MIT students chose the seal over dog and cat robots.


"I came up with the idea for a pet robot because I thought consumers would welcome machines that do not do home chores like washing clothes and cleaning rooms," said its creator, Takanori Shibata, a top researcher at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. [...] If that sounds more like a pet than a robot, that is because it was designed to make patients feel calm and content. Clinical research shows that when people suffering from dementia hold and speak to Paro, it can make their peripheral symptoms milder, providing benefits similar to animal therapy. One U.S. study showed a drop in anxiety that allowed doctors to cut their patients' intake of psychotropic drugs by 30 percent. And miraculously, the robot produces effects that last more than two hours longer than the drugs. In Britain, Paro is included in a governmental organization's guidelines for non-drug dementia treatment options covered by public health insurance. More than 7,000 units are now available at hospitals and care homes across some 30 countries, but this remarkable model was nearly a no-go.

It doesn't come cheap:

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