A robotics company has developed a Labrador puppy designed to act as an emotional support companion to help stave off Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Tombot, founded to help older people struggling with the disease, partnered with designers from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop – the lab behind Sesame Street and puppets from ‘Labyrinth’ – to create the interactive robot, which wags its tail and makes satisfied sounds when stroked.
The yellow puppy has also been programmed to respond to users’ voice commands in a realistic manner, with the types of facial expressions, movements and behaviour typically shown by a real dog.
Studies suggest therapeutic robotic animals have similar positive effects to live pet therapy for individuals with dementia.
Tom Stevens, chief executive and co-founder of Tombot, was inspired to found the company after watching his own mother, Nancy, struggle with separation from her golden doodle dog after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011, reports iNews.
“Virtually all of Tombot’s investors have (or had) loved ones with dementia. Through these interactions, we have come to appreciate that the benefits we are delivering aren’t just for seniors with dementia, but also for those most responsible for their on-going care and well-being.”
The Tombot puppy will use a paired smartphone app for downloading new software updates and is powered by rechargeable batteries.