TechHive: This cuddly, snuggly, high-tech therapy robot saved our CES

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thumbnail This cuddly, snuggly, high-tech therapy robot saved our CES
Jan 10th 2014, 17:45, by Susie Ochs

LAS VEGAS—Robots to assist the differently abled are not a brand-new idea. But I've never seen a robot as cute and cuddly and downright huggable as Paro, a theraputic robot in the form of a furry, huge-eyed baby seal. And from the moment I encountered it in a corner of the South Hall at CES 2014 in Las Vegas, I was in love.

Paro is from Japan, and was created as a robotic version of a therapy animal—one that doesn't need any care besides charging up its battery every six to eight hours or so. The reason it's a baby seal instead of, say, a cat or dog, is that people tend to prefer a cat over a dog or vice versa, but who can resist a baby seal? (Not me, that's for sure.) Plus, everyone has an idea of how a cat or dog should behave, which a robot could have a tricky time living up to.

Covered with 200 high-tech sensors under its thick, plush, kissable fur, Paro responds to your petting and caressing it. It turns its head toward you when you talk to it. Artificial intelligence lets it remember how you like it to behave (for instance, what it does that you respond to the most). It makes cooing sounds and wriggles when you hug it.

You can even change Paro's name—it'll learn the new one after enough repetition.

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