The Null Device

Soft machines of loving grace

The latest Japanese innovation for keeping its growing elderly population company: a robotic seal. Named "Paro", the therapeutic robot responds to touches and adapts its personality to its owner's; the human mind's tendency to see the illusion of agency does the rest.

I'm not sure why they chose a seal rather than a more conventional companion animal, though perhaps because, due to the unfamiliarity of seals as domestic pets, an apparently living plush toy would be less likely to fall into Mori's uncanny valley than, say, a fake dog or cat.

Paro is being tested in hospitals and nursing homes in Japan, where it has reportedly had positive results.

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