Robotic therapy seal from Japan delights seniors

A new therapy robot being tested in Seattle is in fact, it's just plain huggable.

When you hear the word "robot," the first thing that comes to mind is something cold, made of shiny metal with flashing lights.

But a new therapy robot being tested in Seattle is a far cry from that in fact; it's just plain huggable.

Developed in 1998 by Dr. Takanori Shibata of Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, PARO, the robotic harp seal, responds to touch, voice and movement.

Dr. Takanori is observing how places like Seattle Keiro Care Center use the furry robot.

"Interaction with PARO motivates people and improves their mood, and also a lot of people improve depression, anxiety, pains, sleep, loneliness and so on," said Dr. Takanori.

For one patient named Yone, PARO is a definite upgrade of toys she loved in her childhood.

"This is so much different than a regular toy or even a stuffed animal because it responds," said Yone.

"Lots of people become happier with PARO, and also they have a smile and some people stroke PARO and talk to PARO and also the therapist can communicate with them very easily." Dr. Takanori said.

Dr. Shibata says interacting with PARO keeps seniors alert during the day, so they sleep better at night. All in a pleasant and wonderful way.

"It is always warm and soft, fuzzy, everything that makes a person feel good," says Yone.

Dr. Shibata says another benefit of PARO is that it can reduce the need for psychotropic drugs which can have adverse side effects. He says it's also being used successfully with autistic children.

Copyright 2016 KING


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