28 November 2009

Meet Paro - the "furbot" for dementia patients

He's a robotic seal developed by Japanese researchers to help dementia patients feel that they have companionship and a feeling of security, without the responsibilities of a living pet. Made to emulate a live pet as much as possible, he can cuddle, nod and blink his big black eyes. Paro is currently being tested with patients in Baden-Baden and there are already 1,000 robot seals deployed in long-term care homes in Japan.
The image comes from a gallery at Der Spiegel featuring submissions to Focus magazine's "Beauty in Science" photo competition. Paro has been on the market for several years and was featured in an article at AARP's website:
...the world's first therapeutic or "mental-commit" robot - designed to provide relaxation, entertainment and companionship through physical interaction. This adorable furbot was modeled after a baby harp seal literally from the inside out. Sensors beneath Paro's fur and whiskers trigger the seal to move and respond - wriggling with delight when petted and showing displeasure when ignored. Its eyes open and close, and its flippers can move as well. Other built-in sensors allow Paro to respond to sight, sound, temperature and even posture. Covered in soft white antibacterial fur, Paro's artificial intelligence means it can mimic animal behavior and over time, even develop its own character. The latest Paro model, (8th generation) can recognize seven different languages: Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish...
I don't know whether to be delighted that mankind has developed a robot that learns and recognizes seven languages, or to be saddened that such technology is necessary to replace a function that used to be performed by humans...

Paro's homepage.


  1. The patients aren't without humans to care for them, but robot critters like Paro *can* take the place of animals who might otherwise be neglected or harmed by an owner no longer able to care for them or interact well. It works for the humans, so I think it's beautiful.

  2. I know. I have qualms about this as well.

    As a nurse, though, I must say that this would be a wonderful thing to give a patient with dementia for times when the patient is a bit rattled or the nurse is busy taking care of other patients.

    Some patients with dementia can require minute by minute care and that simply cannot be provided in a hospital or long-term care facility setting.

    I wish that weren't the case.

  3. The reason you see this coming from Japan is that they are facing a severe crisis with an aging population and few young people entering the health care field. Where robots can be used to help out, human caregivers' services can be better spread amongst those who need it. Robots are being developed to provide companionship, to assist in lifting and transporting patients.

  4. Imagining what it might be like to suffer dementia and have a robotic seal lurking about, showing "displeasure" when I avoid it ... this is a brave new world for the aged.


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