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Robotic Baby Seal Wins Top Award 86

SilentOneNCW writes "The BBC has an article up about everyone's favourite creature — the robotic baby seal. This seal, called Paro, is fitted with sensors beneath its fur and whiskers that allow it to respond to petting. The idea is that by utilizing these sensors and flapping its arms, it can engage in therapy for older patients in nursing homes. It has won a service prize from the Japanese government sponsored Robot Awards 2006. The awards were set up earlier this year by the Japanese government to promote research and development in the robotics industry. Robots are widely used in Japan and are seen as a way to help deal with an aging population, maintaining the labour force and helping care for the elderly."
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Robotic Baby Seal Wins Top Award

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  • by rolyatknarf ( 973068 ) * on Saturday December 23, 2006 @12:29AM (#17345978)
    "allow it to respond to petting"

    Could they maybe make one of those attractive robotic girls that does this? It would make the perfect companion for the average slashdot reader.
  • Perplexed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cafe Alpha ( 891670 ) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @01:43AM (#17346274) Journal
    Ok, I understand that some people want to pet a stuffed toy and pretend that it's a baby seal. I mean actually do this more than once.

    Let's say that this applies to say, 1% of the population.

    Ok, now you stick some robotics into your stuffed toy (they would have said "clockwork" a hundred years ago), does that really raise the percentage of people interested in petting the stuffed toy and pretending that it's a real seal?

    I mean I like stuffed toys myself, but I can't imagine that putting machinery inside of one makes it better. Since you don't have to pretend that it's moving or anything, I think you're MORE likely to be thinking of it as just an object, in case you'll think of it as a machine rather than as a pillow.

    I mean lets face it, the smartest computerized toy is no nearer to being a real seal than an ordinary doll is.

    And isn't the whole premise awfully condescending and insulting? If you want to help old people get over loneliness, why are you foisting toys on them rather than say, time with a real human being, or a real pet?
  • Re:why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ruff_ilb ( 769396 ) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @02:07AM (#17346376) Homepage
    More importantly, pets make a MESS. This is probably a deal-breaker for the seriously old and almost incapacitated with age.
  • I don't get it. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 23, 2006 @02:15AM (#17346418)
    Sorry if I missed the point but: where's the technical prowess here?

    How I see things (maybe in a too simplistic way) is:
    if( sensorActive == true )

    With a bunch of captors under the fur and voila.
    What's the deal with it?
  • Re:Low opinion (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 23, 2006 @03:06AM (#17346622)
    Don't listen to the other replies. You're absolutely right. You always hear about Japan's BURDENING elderly population but you hardly hear about this problem from Italy who has the same percentage of elderly people. In Italy they put considerable effort into giving the elderly a better, more graceful life as opposed to Japan, where they simply want to extend your misery and simply give an APPEARANCE of happiness. I really can't respect a country where they treat their elderly as if they're not human. The Japanese by nature are very short sighted people, it's always about appearances and not about the future. Everyone, God willing, will grow old. Treat them how you would want to be treated when the time comes.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.