Is this robotic therapy pet the uncanny valley of dog?

There is no shortage of social robots that promise to provide company, and the Tombot Puppy is the latest therapy robot to offer the kind of unconditional love that only a dog can give, as long as the batteries remain charged forever. The golden labrador barks, moves and responds to the touch, providing emotional support to the elderly, people with dementia and anyone who can not have a live pet. It is now funded on Kickstarter and has already reached its goal of $ 20,000.

The creators of Tombot wanted the robot to look and behave as close as possible to a real dog, so they requested the help of Jim Henson's Creature Shop for the design. As a result, Tombot moves like an animatronic puppet (reminds me of Falkor of The Neverending Story that I'm not sure is good or bad) and their real expressions are a bit disconcerting. My immediate response to Tombot was: "There is pain behind the eyes of this dog." It seems too sad! That's the risk you take when you try to make something look realistic: for comparison, the Qoobo therapy cat pillow avoids this problem by setting aside a head completely.


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But ultimately, no matter what I think, it's not for me; It is a therapeutic robot for elderly people and patients with dementia. Studies have been conducted on the benefits of robotic pets such as Paro the seal, which have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety among patients with dementia. It is also quite possible for humans to form emotional bonds with robots; just look at the Sony Aibo dogs, who receive Buddhist funerals in Japan when it's time to say goodbye; or the companion robot Lovot that I declared as my son after playing with him for 30 minutes at CES. That said, the potential benefits of Tombot have not yet been proven in any study.

Tombot is much more affordable than the Aibo for $ 2,899 and the Lovot for $ 3,000. Early sponsors can get Tombot for $ 299, but they will sell for $ 500 when they are released, with a deadline of August 2020. Although as with all Kickstarters, keep in mind that production problems could prevent the project from delivering on time and use your best judgment before backing up.

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