Therapy Bots!

The past few years have seen a steady rise in the use of interactive technology in many aspects of our lives. In addition to making things easier for us, machines today are also being used to provide various kinds of physical and emotional support. And one of the latest developments in this field leverages robots that can help with rehabilitation!

A rehabilitation robot is any machine designed to improve the lives of people with impaired physical or mental functioning. There are two types of rehabilitation robots: assistive and therapy robots, also known as rehabilitators.

Assistive robots help individuals with lost limbs and limited functionality, like the powered wheelchair. Therapy bots, on the other hand, are used for people with cognitive, social, and psychological illnesses.

There are many kinds of therapy robots already available in the market today, specially designed for people with disabilities. Here are five of the most popular ones out there.

Paro: Undoubtedly the most popular therapy bot, Paro is an advanced interactive robot developed by AIST, a research facility in Japan. Designed as a cute white baby seal, Paro provides assisted animal therapy for patients in hospitals or other care facilities where animals are prohibited. With five types of sensors, this interactive robot also remembers how you pet it, and uses the information to improve future interactions. It’s available for lease for about US$200 a month and can be purchased for $5,000.

Joy for All Companion Pets: This latest toy line from Hasbro features cats and dogs that look and feel real. Developed for senior citizens who are unable to take care of live pets, these robots have a soothing heartbeat, roll over for belly rubs, and even sleep! They have an authentic coat, and make realistic sounds. The built-in sensors respond to your touch, making them feel extremely lifelike. The cats are available for $100, while the dogs are priced at $120.

Keepon: The robot design studio Beat Bots came up with the brilliant idea of Keepon Pro, a therapy robot specifically designed for children with developmental disorders like autism. Designed to be used under the supervision of a therapist or professional, the robot serves as a social facilitator and a recording tool. The minimal design elicits positive responses, while ensuring the child is not overwhelmed. The bot can be controlled remotely, allowing the adult to interact with the child from a distance. Its facial recognition features allow the robot to detect eye contact and movement. Priced at around $180, My Keepon is their mainstream version available for kids around the world.

Pepper: The world’s first social humanoid robot, Pepper recognises faces and basic human emotions and can also converse in 15 languages! This is made possible by its touch sensors, LEDs, microphones, infrared sensors, bumpers, an inertial unit, 2D and 3D cameras, and sonars for omnidirectional and autonomous navigation. Pepper has an open and fully-programmable platform. Today, Pepper is available to schools and businesses. More than 2,000 companies around the world use Pepper to welcome, inform, and guide visitors. The robot is priced at a whopping $1,600.

Hugvie: Created by Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of ATR, the Hugvie is a ‘human presence’ transfer medium that makes its user feel the presence of remote partners. Just place your phone inside the pocket in its head, and the bot will vibrate in sync with the heartbeat of the caller, controlled by the tone of their voice. A cushion with a head, torso, and limbs, Hugvie can be used by children to feel the warm embrace of their mother, even if they’re miles apart, and is a useful tool in long distance relationships too. Additionally, the interactive communication media helps stimulate an emotional response even when there is no one around you. Available in two sizes, for children and adults, the Hugvie is priced at $100.                     

- Devanshi