PARO is a companion robot, developed by Dr Takanori Shibata, a researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. PARO is a therapeutic robot with the appearance of a baby harp seal and weighs the same as a newborn baby. It has tactile sensors and moves its tail and flippers and opens its eyes when petted. Artificial intelligence software changes the robot’s behaviours based on an array of sensors that monitor sound, light, temperature and touch. It responds to sounds, can learn its name and learns to respond to words its owner uses frequently. It can show emotions such as surprise, happiness and anger and will cry if it is not receiving sufficient attention. It produces sounds similar to a real baby seal and is active during the day and asleep at night. PARO was designed as a baby harp seal because this is seen as a ‘neutral’ animal – most of us do not have prior negative experiences with a seal, as we may have with other animals such as a dog.
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