'Robotic Dog' to be Best Friend of People with Dementia
A robot dog under development in California is vying to be a best friend to people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, offering comfort by responding to human touch with life-like motions.
According to Reuters, Entrepreneur Tom Stevens recently presented a test version of the robotic yellow puppy to residents of a nursing home in Thousand Oaks, California. Stevens said his company Tombot, in the northern Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita, partnered with Jim Henson's Creature Shop to give the robot realistic movements.
"It didn't just have to look real and feel realistic but it had to behave realistically as well," he said. Stevens believes the Tombot dog, which moves its head from side to side, grunts and wags its tail, is lifelike enough to help people with dementia. It also is easier to look after than a real dog.
The robot has 16 motors to control its movements and is loaded with sensors to respond to voice commands and detect how people are touching it.
Stevens said he came up with the concept for the robot after his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2011.
Japan's Sony pioneered the use of robot dogs in 1999 with the AIBO, billed as a pet that behaves like a real dog using artificial intelligence. Unlike the AIBO, which looks robotic, the Tombots closely resemble real dogs.