A robotic seal with artificial intelligence is making waves at Vancouver General Hospital.
Paro is gender-neutral, hypoallergenic and weights about five pounds. He/she was specifically designed for social and emotional support to people with dementia. Paro costs $6,000.
Paro behaves like a domestic pet and responds to touch, light, sound, motion and temperature. Unlike your average seal, Paro prefers hugs and cuddles and generally steers clear of the water, unless undergoing thorough cleaning.
The growing prevalence of older patients with dementia in hospitals demands that hospital staff find innovative ways to meet the needs of this population.
Hospitalization rates are 65 per cent higher for seniors with dementia than for those without, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Innovative assistive technologies, such as social robots, have been found to be helpful in long-term care, but limited research has been done on the use of social robots in a hospital setting. That’s where Lillian Hung, VCH Clinical Nurse Specialist comes in.
Lillian Hung’s research looks at hospital patients with dementia who interacted with PARO. It concluded that the participants were generally happier, and found the hospital setting less traumatic, when accompanied by the robotic seal.