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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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  • why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mike610544 ( 578872 ) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @12:01AM (#17345846)
    If there a pet shortage in Japan? Dogs/Cats also respond realistically when you interact with them. I might understand how they favor robots over unskilled immigrants for manual labor, but why subject the elderly to robot baby seals?!?
  • Cuter then the AIBO (Score:2, Interesting)

    by topherhenk ( 998915 ) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @12:04AM (#17345862)
    Nothing in the article seems that advanced. We had a spoon feeding robot for yrs in my grad school lab. The Rumba has been out for a while and the seal seems straight forward.
    It is interesting to see how different the robotics field is between the US and Japan. The US focuses on UAV's and others for the defense department/DHS or the space program. While the Japanese focus on human robotic interaction and humanoid robots.
  • Re:why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @02:02AM (#17346358)
    If there a pet shortage in Japan? Dogs/Cats also respond realistically when you interact with them.

    Anyone that's spent any real time interacting with actual dogs and cats is going to find something like this cold comfort indeed. Perhaps they're thinking of patients in the throws of dementia or something - or just assuming that a lot of elderly Japanese have never actually had a real animal in their lives.

    That being said, a lot of elderly patients have comprimised immune systems. And as nice as it is to have a real dog give you a friendly lick on the face, it's worth remembering that, without question, is was recently licking its ass.
  • Re:Perplexed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bottlemaster ( 449635 ) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @03:30AM (#17346714)
    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?
    I couldn't agree with you more.

    If I saw this product in a different context, I would think it was marketed at children. It's like a Furby but cute or something. I think robots that provide basic healthcare (washing, feeding, providing little cups of medicine) for the elderly are a wonderful idea, but I don't think interaction with another being can be replaced by simulation. When it comes to relationships, people need something real. I know that my cat isn't very intelligent, but how I interact with him actually affects him. It's less about how he reacts and more about how he feels. This is what makes our relationship meaningful. Even though he's just a cat.

    Toys are no substitute for pets, and pets are no substitute for people. But the gap between a toy and a pet and the gap between a pet and a human are incomparable.

I go on working for the same reason a hen goes on laying eggs. -- H.L. Mencken