Anyone who has ever owned a pet will be able to attest to the power of animals as spiritual rejuvenators and psychological healers. Pet owners do not need expensive studies to prove that pet therapy works; We’ve had first-hand experience of the phenomenon. We also know that the species does not make a difference. The only things that matter is that we love them unconditionally and receive more than that in return.
Unfortunately, the scientific fraternity does not accept the word of those in the know unless it’s been corroborated with a grant budget and at least two dozen clipboards. So, pet therapy has been successfully proven to the satisfaction of most scientists (there are always dissidents, even when providing that grass is green). Pets’ ability to alleviate depression, loneliness and bringing meaning to life has been used in old-age homes, in the treatment of the mentally and physically handicapped, and for terminal patients. They have also been used in poverty stricken areas to bring joy and a sense of responsibility to those living there.
In the spirit of bringing the benefits of pet therapy to the masses, scientists created “the Huggable”, a robotic pet designed to simulate relationships with the real thing. New “sensitive skin” technology identifies the Huggable from previous generations of robotic pets and toys. The “sensitive skin” has temperature and force sensors, as well as an electric field that enables the Huggable to interpret different types of touch, such as tickling and scratching. It responds with behavior appropriate to that touch. For example, if you stroke its head, it will nuzzle closer to you, and provide the comfort of bodily presence.
The primary role of the Huggable is a health care application. In addition to its sensitive skin and reactive abilities, it can also collect data about the level and type of interaction from patients and send it to nursing staff. It can detect the early onset of depression or other behavioral changes, enabling staff to treat problems proactively.
The Huggable will be an invaluable resource in overcrowded and understaffed nursing homes and hospitals. It’s ideal for institutions and patients that do not have access to pets or the budget to care for a large number of animals.
No matter how advanced and lifelike the Huggable is, and we can be sure that it will improve with successful models; It will never replace the pure joy provided by the real thing.