Hug it... stroke it... you know you want to...
"Paro", a cute & cuddly artificial baby harp seal certified by Guinness as "The World's Most Therapeutic Robot" is slowly but surely changing the way we think (and feel) about robots. Forget "Danger, Will Robinson", Paro is here! The Paro Mental Commitment Robot developed by Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology comes closer than ever before to being the ideal "therapy pet". Psychologists have long been aware of the beneficial interaction between people and pets, especially when the people are under mental stress or have suffered physical injury. As well, therapists at nursing homes and other old age care facilities have noted that residents brighten up and experience relief from anxiety when allowed to interact with dogs or cats.
The Seal of approval!
Paro seeks to go one better, as it's programmed to reinforce those warm fuzzy feelings by, well, being warm and fuzzy for starters. Really now, is there anything more cute than a seal pup? They're not the poster kids for the movement against animal cruelty for nothing. Anyway, Paro works by employing 5 different types of sensors that allow it to react to changing light conditions and "know" when it is being touched or held. In response to various stimuli, Paro will wriggle its body and wave its flippers, but its most notable attribute is the way it changes its facial expressions. C'mon, don't tell me you wouldn't get choked up when little Paro softly smiles at you and widens its deep, soulful eyes...
"Everything is going to be alright..."
Viewers of this year's American Inventor television show may recall the somewhat creepy "Therapy Buddy" from Episode 2... the blue humanoid blob that whispers "EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT" when its feet are stroked... I get the shivers just thinking about it. The judges were right in giving thumbs down to the blue blob. After all, it's one thing to be told that everything's going to be alright, quite another to know it in your heart, and that's where Paro blows "Therapy Buddy" out of the water.
Paro is currently available to institutional buyers who operate children's hospitals and retirement residences, and it's not cheap: estimated cost is between $2,500 and $3,000 each. (via Trends In Japan )
Japanese Innovations Writer