The therapeutic effectiveness of Paro and other therapy robots is also still under review and results of long-term studies are still unknown, but evidence suggests robot therapy may be an alternative non-pharmacological option for elderly patients with dementia and mood disorders. Therapy robots may also help reduce the costs of long-term care for elderly patients living with dementia, although the use of toy-like robots instead of traditional pharmacological therapies is part of a larger ethical debate over the use of human-robot interaction as a form of unconventional therapy versus traditional caregiving.
Other types of therapy robots can be found in clinical environments, from those that are also plush -- like the soft toy that looks like an Easter Peep used to help overstimulated autistic kids to calm down (Keepon) -- to LEGO-built robots used to manage phobias (Phobot).
MIT-Manus is another example of a therapy robot; this one helps patients relearn basic motor skills after experiencing a stroke. And the data collected and stored on every patient who uses this type of robot can help clinicians evaluate their patients' overall improvement or decline more effectively.
In addition to the aforementioned Keepon, there are other therapy robots to help kids with autism, autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) or other developmental issues to grow, practice and improve their social skills. The NAO robot (which is pronounced "now"), for example, offers kids a safe and predictable interactions -- and the developers behind the 'bot have found that autistic kids are more responsive to the machine than they are to other humans. Social robots may also collect data helpful for clinicians to better diagnose autism, such as measuring eye gaze and facial expressions in young children.
Author's Note: How can a baby robot seal be a medical device?
It was way back in 1950 when Alan Turing considered, "Can machines think?" and officially sparked our artificial intelligence fantasies; several decades later, we've gone beyond debating whether or not Number Five is alive at the movies to actually interacting with the machines we've built. Fingers crossed these plushy therapeutic robots that are making a difference in our human lives today aren't the Cylons of tomorrow.
More Great Links
- American Humane Association. "Animal-Assisted Therapy." (Feb. 27, 2014) http://www.americanhumane.org/interaction/programs/animal-assisted-therapy/
- Blake, Heidi. "Nao: the robot that expresses and detects emotions."The Telegraph. Aug. 9, 2010. (Feb. 27, 2014) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/7934318/Nao-the-robot-that-expresses-and-detects-emotions.html
- Chang, Wan-Ling; Šabanovic, Selma; and Lesa Huber. "Social Shaping of Interactions between Older Adults and the Seal-Like Robot PARO." Indiana University. 2013. (Feb. 27, 2014) http://homes.soic.indiana.edu/selmas/ChangSabanovic-ICSR2013-workshop.pdf
- Chow, Clara. "Robotics could be a big step in autism therapy, but stumbling blocks remain." South China Morning Post. Feb. 25, 2014. (Feb. 27, 2014) http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/family-education/article/1434179/robotics-could-be-big-step-autism-therapy-stumbling
- Guizzo, Erico. "Paro the Robotic Seal Could Diminish dementia." IEEE Spectrum. May 22, 2009. (Feb. 27, 2014) http://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/home-robots/paro-the-robotic-seal-could-diminish-dementia
- Johnson, Judith A. "FDA regulation of Medical Devices." Congressional research Service. June 25, 2012. (Feb. 27, 2014) https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42130.pdf
- Krisch, Joshua A. "Could a Robot Physical Therapist Upend Stroke-Recovery Research?" Popular Mechanics. Feb. 13, 2014. (Feb. 27, 2014) http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/med-tech/could-a-robot-physical-therapist-upend-stroke-recovery-research
- Mayo Clinic. "Pet therapy: Man's best friend as healer." Mayo Clinic. Feb. 25, 2014. (Feb. 27, 2014) http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/consumer-health/in-depth/pet-therapy/art-20046342
- PARO Robots Japan. (Feb. 27, 2014) http://paro.jp/english/index.html
- PARO Robots USA. (Feb. 27, 2014) http://www.Parorobots.com/
- Paws for People: Pet-Assisted Visitation Volunteer Services. "Benefits of Pet Therapy." (Feb. 27, 2014) http://www.pawsforpeople.org/who-we-are/benefits-of-pet-therapy/
- Reed, Frances. "Robots Make Great Therapists." Jameco Electronics. (Feb. 27, 2014) http://www.jameco.com/Jameco/workshop/inthenews/therapyrobot.html
- Robinson, Hayley; MacDonald, Bruce; and Elizabeth Broadbent. "Physiological effects of a companion robot on blood pressure of older people in residential care facility: A pilot study." Australasian Journal on Ageing. Dec. 25, 2013. (Feb. 27, 2014) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ajag.12099/full
- Tergesen, Anne; and Miho Inada. "It's Not a Stuffed Animal, It's a $6,000 Medical Device." The Wall Street Journal. June 21, 2010. (Feb. 27, 2014) http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704463504575301051844937276
- Williams, Robyn. "Therapeutic robots ease anxiety for dementia patients." ABC News. Feb. 22, 2014. (Feb. 27, 2014) http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/therapeutic-robots-ease-anxiety-for-dementia-patients/5275762#transcript
- Worthington, Elise. "Fluffy robot seals comfort dementia patients in nursing homes." ABC News. Nov. 20, 2013. (Feb. 27, 2014) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-20/robot-seals-help-dementia-patients/5104582