Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

Paro: Helping dementia patients

July 15th, 2010 / in research horizons / by Erwin Gianchandani

Last week Amy Harmon wrote the third installment of the awesome New York Times Magazine series “Smarter Than You Think.” The article, titled ‘Discovering a Soft Sport for Circuitry – Robot Machines as Companions,’ details the use of artificial intelligent machines as human companions.

In particular, the article highlights Paro — a robotic baby harp seal — used in nursing homes as a therapeutic aid for the elderly. Paro uses 14 different sensors, two microprocessors, and a whole slew of AI algorithms to illicit compassionate responses from users and convincingly behave as a real-life animal. The Paro robot is used to help patients suffering with dementia and provide comfort in times of distress.

Harmon goes on to talk about other synthetic companions, which use artificial intelligence to interact with people, inducing behavioral changes. She describes an AI device that can help with weight loss and another that can prevent relapses into addiction.

Interestingly, Harmon also delves into the philosophical concerns surrounding these types of artificial companions and posits that technology is currently moving faster than the philosophy around it.

Definitely check out the feature in the NY Times Magazine, as well as the media that accompany it:

A video of a patient interacting with Paro; and

A timeline detailing the history of robotics.

And be sure to post your thoughts below!

(Contributed by Chase Hensel, CRA/CCC Tisdale Fellow)

Paro:  Helping dementia patients

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