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article imageHasbro thinks robotic pets are great for lonely oldsters

By Karen Graham     Nov 18, 2015 in Technology
Technological advances in robotics have produced some amazingly real-life creations, and one toy company is using the world's fascination with them to target a huge consumer-base, seniors. Hasbro suggests getting grandma a robotic companion pet.
A robotic pet is nothing more than an artificially intelligent machine made to look like a companion animal, or pet. The most common of these artificial pets include dogs, cats, rabbits and birds, but surprisingly, many people treat them like real animals.
This robotic macaw is called  Squawker.
This robotic macaw is called "Squawker."
Gadget Madness
Hasbro Inc., headquartered in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, is one of the largest toy companies in the world, with the majority of its toys made in Eastern Asia. The toymaker's success with G.I. Joe, Transformers, and its Easy-Bake oven, as well as the acquisition of a number of other toy companies have kept them on top.
Time reports that children, teenagers, and adult demographics have already been successfully conquered by Hasbro, and that left one consumer group that has so far, been untapped, the elderly. Hasbro has come out with a line of robotic cats the company says are β€œdesigned to bring comfort, companionship and fun for your elder loved ones.”
The "Joy For All" robotic pet line
Hasbro's new robotic pet line, Joy For All, is advertised as a way to keep the elderly company. The robocats are not meant to take the place of visits to grandma's house, but instead, they are designed to keep her happy and interested in life, so they say.
Hasbro asks if this robotic cat isn t the purr-fect gift for your favorite senior?
Hasbro asks if this robotic cat isn't the purr-fect gift for your favorite senior?
The $100 Joy For All pet cats are "designed to bring comfort, companionship and fun for your elder loved ones. With realistic fur, purrs and meows β€” and sensors that respond to petting and hugs with familiar, cat-like actions β€” Companion Pets deliver a soothing, joyful experience that inspires smiles, laughter and fond memories for people of all ages," according to the company's website.
Artificial pets have been around quite a while. Think back to the Pet Rock, or the battery-operated Furbies and Tamagotchis. Tamagotchis were supposed to be a great teaching tool, showing us the myriad tasks involved in taking care of a pet. They ate, played, pooped, slept, and even died, just like the real thing. Like life, they have evolved with advances in technology to the point they look and act like the real things.
Robotic pets for the elderly - Therapeutic or ridiculous?
Pets have been used as therapy animals for years, brought into nursing homes, assisted living centers and hospitals. Numerous studies have shown that interaction between therapy animals and the elderly has always been beneficial to older people's overall sense of well-being. But sometimes, live animals can't be brought into facilities, either due to a risk of infection, fear, or other restrictions.
Surprisingly, studies also have shown that while it may take a little longer to warm up to a furry robotic pet, they were equally effective at relieving the loneliness of nursing home residents and fostering attachments, as reported by ABC News. All the studies stressed that robotic pets did not replace hands-on care by health care staff.
Hasbro's robotic cat will purr, fall asleep and if you stroke its furry back long enough, even roll over to have its belly rubbed. But Paro, the robotic seal seen in Aziz Ansari's new Netflix show, Master of None, is unbelievably realistic. Paro was created in Japan to help elderly patients suffering from dementia, and the adorable seal can be yours for about $6,000.
Real pets can t always used in long-term care facilities  due to fear  infection or other restrictio...
Real pets can't always used in long-term care facilities, due to fear, infection or other restrictions, he (or she!) can be a complementary therapeutic companion. Obviously, Paro is not meant to replace caregivers or real pet therapy, it is simply a therapeutic tool.
Jason Barcomb
Paro is modeled after a baby Harp seal, and is fitted with technology that makes him diurnal, going to sleep after he is fed, just like a baby seal, and sleeping at night. To adapt to its environment, it has five futuristic sensors that allow the seal to sense and analyze touch, light, sound, temperature, and posture. Sounds sort of scary, doesn't it?
So is a robotic pet a good choice as a gift to your elderly parent? Perhaps a lot may depend on how active the older person may be, and rather or not they need cognitive stimulation. You might ask yourself, is my parent lonely or alone for most of the day? Whatever you decide, don't give an elderly parent a robotic cat or any other kind of pet to replace visits by the family.
More about robotic pets, Hasbro, companion animals, master of none, paro the seal
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