Robotic therapy puppies for seniors could start shipping next year
A robot golden retriever therapy dog known as Tombot could be providing seniors across the world with company as soon as the summer of 2020. (Tombot Puppies)
Published Tuesday, March 19, 2019 9:49AM EDT
A couple of weeks before its funding deadline on Kickstarter, the robot golden retriever therapy dog Tombot has reached its $20,000 goal; as early as August of 2020, Tombot puppies will be providing seniors with company across the world.
As technology becomes more lifelike thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence, sentient robots are being developed that focus more on human companionship rather than task-oriented performance. Animal bots like Sony's Aibo and Groove X's Lovot were both developed to keep people company as their primary function, though the former is slowly gaining more practical capabilities like home monitoring.
Recently, a new robot companion whose artistic design was made by Muppet puppet creator Jim Henson's Creature Shop just reached its funding goal on Kickstarter weeks before its deadline: the Tombot Puppy. This golden retriever is designed to "emulate live animal appearance and behaviors, providing ongoing fun, happiness, and emotional support," primarily to seniors and those who cannot have a real pet of their own.
The companion has been designed to relieve loneliness, reduce anxiety, and provide people with a subject of emotional attachment and, according to Tombot, these, "Puppies are an invaluable tool for increasing social engagement in the senior, and for redirecting ‘challenging' behaviors."
Not only do the robots look and act similarly to real dogs, but also, they respond accordingly to how they're being touched and where just like Aibo pups do; however, Tombot Puppies only rest in a lying position with their heads up while the Sony iteration walks around and comes to you when called.
At US$449 per robot, these pups cost less than a quarter of both Aibo and Lovot companion robots. If all goes according to Tombot's plan, shipments of the first litter will begin in March of 2020.