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Innovation

Toy Story 4? Smart technology that loves you back

Stuffed animals endowed with robotics and sensors, offer technological stand-in for pet therapy.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

For those of you out there in the Toy Story 3 fan set, there is a thought-provoking feature story in the New York Times today about robotics technology that is being tailored for a new type of medical applications -- interaction with patients who need the healing touch, quite literally.

The robot featured prominently in the story, being used to help calm a woman with dementia, is designed to look like a baby seal. (The seal, called Paro, is actually in its 8th generation of development!)

When the patient strokes the robot, sensors dictate how it responds: If the touch is a soft pat, for example, the seal might blink. Get a little rough with the little guy and he might yelp or bark. Sort of like pet therapy -- one of the best inventions ever, unless you happen (like me) to be allergic to a lot of animals. This video shows the seal in action.

Other robots offer dieting encouragement if you seem inclined to visit the refrigerator too often or help coach recovering addicts through periods of temptation.

There is, perhaps, cause for concern is robots are used too extensively to replace the healing properties of human touch. The article touches on those concerns. But for those of us who have struggled with how to "reach" a loved one who cannot otherwise be consoled, this seems like a rather human application of smart technology.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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