Robot therapy

At the beginning of the year I attended CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – in Las Vegas. It is basically a geek’s wet dream. All the biggest electronics brands unveil their latest techno arsenal, and no expense is spared. It is the most spectacular display of brand one-upmanship you could ever witness. You also get to see a glimpse of the future. While most people were lured with the latest in home entertainment gadgetry, I headed for a small robotics section, which of course was dominated with Japanese companies.

By far the most awesome/unusual thing I spotted there was a therapeutic robot (which apparently has already been in use in Japan for a number of years) to assist in therapy with children and the elderly. This robot looks, and feels, like a fluffy baby harp seal. It responds to light, sound, touch, temperature and even posture. It makes endearing noises, moves it’s head and blinks it’s eyes, but by far the most astounding aspect of this robot, is that it has artificial intelligence and is programmed for voice recognition and is also able to learn behavioural patterns of its owner so that, over time, it develops it’s own character. It is designed to become a cherished “pet”, providing companionship for patients who are unable to take care of a real animal or for those who are in places where animals are prohibited.

Surreal but cute.

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