CNET spotlights ‘comfort companions’ and therapy robots

CNET, generally a home for all things whiz-bang and techy, is unusually but admirably spotlighting tech that assists the disabled and older adults. The latest in its Tech Enabled series focuses on robotics and AI-assisted comfort companions to help the sick–children undergoing medical treatment and adults with dementia. 

We’ve previously covered the PARO therapeutic seal, here in use with dementia, PTSD, and TBI residents in a VA Hospital in Livermore, California, It’s now in its 13th year of distribution and on its ninth release. Our prior criticism was only that it could benefit far more people if production were higher and prices were lower. 

Insurer AFLAC has developed with Sproutel the ‘My Special Aflac Duck’, designed for children undergoing treatment for cancer. The stuffed duck has a microphone, sensors, and pre-programming to respond to the child. The child can place discs on the duck’s stomach which are “feeler cards” which reflect moods from sad to happy. It can also be taken care of with ‘feeding’ and bathing (the furry cover is removable). AFLAC is donating the $200 cost of the therapy duck for a wider release this fall. Sproutel previously designed Jerry the Bear for children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, where they learn to monitor blood sugar levels and give insulin shots to the bear via an AR phone app.

The writer and videos attest to the comfort and control patients feel with these comfort companions (and plus). Where articles like this in CNET contribute is in increasing general awareness that these are available here and now. One only wishes they and research on them were more widely available. 

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