Scientists Introduce Adorable Therapy Robot to Nursing Home, Jerry Is Not Impressed
Oh, Jerry, don't ever change.
The PARO therapeutic robot is designed to be a sort of companion for patients. It was recently given a five-month test run at the Sunny View Retirement Community. Most patients responded well to PARO, but 92-year-old Jerry Vroom wasn’t impressed one bit by the robotic harp seal. Vroom is passive-aggressively manning the front line of the coming robot uprising.
“What shall I say to you?” Jerry asked a PARO robot before handing it to someone else. “Here, you can have it,” he said. Jerry’s not impressed by your silly seal toy, science. But maybe he should be.
Some concerns for the elderly are isolation and loneliness. PARO hopes to help with that, and the workers at Sunny View say it has helped draw patients out of their rooms and begin conversations with each other. PARO is being used in a similar way as therapy animals, but the major difference is that since PARO isn’t a real animal there’s less risk of a mess or patients having an adverse reaction.
Despite the positive reactions from the non-Jerry patients at Sunny View, PARO is not without its critics. Maja Mataric, a University of Southern California professor who studies human-robot interactions, says it’s important to consider the ethics of using machines in this way. Others think PARO and robots like it could eventually replace human caregivers.
Meanwhile, the Sunny View activities director Katie Hofman says PARO helps patients focus and stay engaged when their dementia would otherwise cause them to be anxious and withdrawn. Hofman even says PARO has been able to replace medication for patients in some cases.
PARO interacts with patients by sensing light, touch, movement, voices, and general adorableness. It may not be sophisticated enough to replace human caregivers or live-animal companions, but it is one option for helping elderly patients overcome isolation and interact with something, even if it just a cute little robot.
Except for Jerry. Jerry doesn’t care about your seal robot.
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