Robotic Pets for Seniors Getting Smarter

Toymaker Hasbro has teamed with Brown University, with the help of a $1 million National Science Foundation grant, to add artificial intelligence to their robotic pets allowing them to not only comfort older adults but provide daily reminders to take medications or find particular items.

Joy for All Companion Pets are animatronic dogs and cats designed to provide companionship and help combat social isolation and loneliness among the elderly, especially those with dementia.  When the robotic pets were released last December, they were well received by caregivers and seniors. 

Companion pets have gained wide acceptance in care facilities where robotic cats or dogs provide a welcome distraction and calming effect.   Having something to care for, real or synthetic, gives elderly adults with dementia a focus to their day and often a sense of joy in an otherwise confusing and isolating world.

The three-year Affordable Robotic Intelligence for Elderly Support (ARIES) project is hoped to improve the well-being seniors with mild dementia and their caregivers.  The first year of research will be dedicated to determining what kinds of assistance users might need; medication alerts for example.  After the initial stage,  the project will move on to develop technologies to meet the needs of older adults.  With the use of new sensors, the pets will be able to communicate with seniors through purrs, growls or movements that can help guide seniors with memory loss while providing company and helping to improve mental health. 

To learn more about Joy for All Companion Pets, follow this link to the Hasbro website.  And to read more about therapy dogs and robotic pets in nursing homes, read about a new study in Psychology Today here