Hasbro, the toy company, in collaboration with Brown University, has been granted $1 million to fund research, and subsequent development into adding artificial intelligence to their ‘Joy For All’ pets. Known as ARIES (Affordable Robotic Intelligence for Elderly Support), these robotic pets aim to aid older people, particularly those with dementia, to remember important things, such as when to take medication.
Hasbro already sells the ‘Joy For All’ range, for around £80, as standard companion pets. These toy robots are designed to bring comfort and fun to their elderly owners. Featuring realistic fur and pet sounds, as well as sensors that allow the ‘pet’ to respond to petting from its owner. For example, the cat companion purrs when its head is rubbed, nuzzles your hand if you stroke its face and snoozes if it feels ‘relaxed’ after being petted. This allows older people to experience having a pet, without any of the added responsibilities.
The research aims to adapt these pre-existing robots, by adding artificial intelligence to further aid their owners. The planned developments would allow the pets to remind their elderly companions when they are meant to be visiting the doctor. They may even be able to help locate items such as lost glasses or misplaced medicine bottles! As well as these helpful actions, the interactive element of these pets can contribute to better wellbeing for seniors, as they can ease feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety.
The project is expected to take around three years to complete, with a prototype scheduled to be released in the summer. The aim is to keep the new model as affordable as possible, around the same price as the current model, so that they can easily be welcomed into care homes.
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