Huffing and puffing on the treadmill yesterday, I enjoyed a very cool Discovery Channel segment on robotics. And what great applications, and implications, it has for the emotional and mental care of the elderly.
Robotics has been on the industrial scene since the 1960s; however, the early 21st century has opened a whole new frontier. Therapeutic robots are here, and with millions of baby boomers hitting the 60-year mile marker, the timing couldn’t be better.
Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) has been around for some time. Incidentally, you really ought to check out the Delta Society’s website to see the wonderful work they do.
Absolutely, interacting with animals has the power to soothe all conditions emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical. When it comes to the emotional and mental care of the elderly; animal interaction can reduce depression, loneliness, and anxiety. And it works wonders for manifestations of dementia, such as agitation and aggression.
Well, then – how cool would it be to enjoy all of the wonderful benefits of interacting with animals; without the potential for biting, scratching, drooling, allergic reactions, infections, and those oh-so-annoying trips outdoors (and the even more annoying indoor clean-ups)?
Paro is a therapeutic robot baby harp seal, designed by Takanori Shibata of the Intelligent System Research Institute of Japan’s National Institute of Advance Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). Conceived (so to speak) in 1993, Paro was first presented to the public in 2001. And he/she (not it) has been sold commercially since 2004. Paro’s current retail price is a cool $5000.
Paro is actually known as a mental commitment robot, meaning he/she isn’t intended to offer people physical work or service. Nope, Paro’s only mission is to generate emotional and mental effects. And it’s all based in physical interaction and nonverbal communication.
Incredibly, Paro has touch sensors and physically responds to petting. He/she also responds to sounds and can learn a name. And throw in the ability to show emotions such as surprise, happiness, and anger. Oh, Paro cries – and it’s a recording of a harp seal the designer came upon in Canada.
And if all that wasn’t enough, unlike a natural harp seal, Paro is diurnal – active during the day and sleepy-head at night. Just like we humans.
Well, without further ado, here’s Paro…
Is that sweet, or what? Can you see the incredibly powerful positive impact Paro – robotics – can have upon senior citizens? I think it’s simply wonderful.
You know, I love coming upon stories such as this, and sharing them with you. Absolutely, the future of robotics can, in fact, be scary; however, robots like Paro provide buckets of comfort and security to those in need.