The Invasion of Cute, Therapeutic Robots
Robots like Keepon and Paro are designed to be universally likable, but they don't come cheap.
Paro the robotic seal has been used to treat elderly patients with dementia for more than 15 years in Japan and Europe. This year, they went on sale for facilities in the U.S. The robot has sensors all over its body, allowing it to react to touch, light, and sound. Paro is recharged through a pacifier-shaped plug in its mouth.
Keepon is a little, yellow, spongy robot that researchers have used to interact with autistic children. The robot is usually tele-operated by a therapist in another room, but in an autonomous mode it can bounce along to music or sounds. Two video cameras (eyes) and a microphone (nose) help researchers monitor, track, and record the children's improvement.