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'Emotional' robotic dog that loves to be stroked could provide friendship and care for the elderly

  • Sensors mean it can 'feel' a stroke and even wags its tail when it's feeling happy
  • Cameras built into the dog's eyes mean it can recognise and follow people
  • It could also make audio calls and raise the alarm in the event of an accident 

Dogs have been found to ease loneliness among the elderly, but the responsibility of caring for 'man's best friend' can be too demanding for some. 

Now, researchers have created a 'emotional' robotic pub that could solve this issue. 

Dubbed MiRo, the biomimetic robot that enjoys human interaction and could make a good companion for the elderly, according to its designers. 

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MiRo is a biomimetic robot that enjoys human interaction and could make a good companion for the elderly. It has smart stereo cameras built into its eyes which allow it to recognise people and follow their movements

This robot pup MiRo is fitted with various sensors that mean it can 'feel' a stroke on its head or back, and even wags its tail when it's feeling happy.

It also has smart stereo cameras built into its eyes which allow it to recognise people and follow their movements.

Its nose has a sonar sensor which means it can sense where it is and will known if there is a drop ahead.

MiRo could be used to make audio calls or perhaps raise the alarm in the event of an accident. 

The robot pup is fitted with various sensors that mean it can 'feel' a stroke on its head or back, and even wags its tail when it's feeling happy. 

Created by scientists at the University of Sheffield, MiRo which is short for 'mimetic robot', is believed the be the world's first commercial biomimetic robot. 

'It has a companionship effect so when it's on and around you it really gives you that warm, buzzy feeling that you have someone that understands you', said studio manager with Sheffield-based design company Consequential Robotics, Maria Favre, who helped build the bot.

It also has smart stereo cameras built into its eyes so it can recognise people and follow their movements.

Its nose has a sonar sensor which means it can sense where it is. 

In the future, the designers believe social robots will share our personal space, constantly interacting with us and providing emotional engagement. 

Mechatronics engineer Ludwig Resch says robotics has reached a stage where animal droids can be convincing, whereas human-looking robots are still a long way off. 

'We're at the point where we can start doing more with that higher level thinking and the artful intelligence', he said. 

The designers say MiRo could use artificial intelligence (AI) to perform a variety of useful tasks, such as recognising visitors at the front door or reminding owners of events in their diary. 

nose has a sonar sensor which means it can sense where it is and will known if there is a drop ahead. MiRo could be used to make audio calls or perhaps raise the alarm in the event of an accident

MiRo could be used to make audio calls or perhaps raise the alarm in the event of an accident.

'With artificial intelligence, it opens doors to a whole range of new things,' said Mr Resch.

'If it was just an animal, you would be pretty much stuck at that animal level, that ability to interact emotionally, but since we have the artificial level and that high level thinking brain, we can do things that animals couldn't. 

The designers believe in the future social robots will share our personal space, constantly interacting with us and providing emotional engagement

'We can recognise people based on voice, we can recognise them based on visual signs and this means we can open MiRo's applications to a whole range', said Mr Resch. 

A recent Oxford University study estimated that 47 percent of jobs in the United States are 'at risk' of being automated in the next 20 years. 

'I don't want to take the human being out of care because it is hugely valuable to the person being cared for and indeed to the person who is offering care,' he said. 

The designers say MiRo could use artificial intelligence (AI) to perform a variety of useful tasks, such as recognising visitors at the front door or reminding owners of events in their diary

A recent Oxford University study estimated that 47 percent of jobs in the United States are 'at risk' of being automated in the next 20 years

'There's an amazing amount of reward you get out of offering help and care to somebody that you love and you want to support.

'So don't let's see robots as being replacements, let's see them beings add-ons. And I think that that is a sensible place to put them in in the panoply of care going forward into the future', he said. 

MiRo is currently being marketed to developers so they can explore various potential applications and develop the companion robots of the future.

Developer kits, which are made for robotic professionals, are available for £2,200 ($2,800). 

The designers believe MiRo could also be used in schools and universities for education or for greeting and entertaining visitors at public attractions like museums.

The JustoCat has been developed by academics in Sweden to offer comfort, pleasure and peace of mind to people suffering with dementia.

While she may look like a cuddly toy, the inventors insist she is much more like a medical device and, as such, she comes with a hefty price tag of around £1,000.

The technology is the result of a partnership between health care researchers at Mälardalen University in Sweden and robotics experts at the Robotdalen company. 

Benefit: JustoCat resembles a live cat in many ways in that it breathes, purrs and meows. One advantage with the cat's fur is that it is washable and removable - so can meet hygiene requirements in an institution'

The professor in computer science said the project started with a study of people with dementia and involved trials and interviews with carers. 

The professor in computer science said: ‘The care-givers used JustoCat as a tool for relaxation, to calm down the patient with dementia and as a distraction to help deal with agitation that might disturb other patients.

‘The cat encourages and stimulates communication, she allows the patients to recall memories of their own cats and distracts repetitive behaviour.’ 

The professor said: ‘The functions of JustoCat means it resembles a live cat in many ways in that it breathes, purrs and meows. 

The robotic cat is about the same size and weight as a normal cat, and comes in grey or black and white, however it doesn’t move beyond the impression it is breathing.

 

 

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