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Study to look at effects of therapeutic robots in nursing homes

Therapeutic robots such as the seal robot "Paro," left, are seen. The robots are candidates for use in a study on the effects of such robots at nursing homes. (Mainichi)

In a study to look objectively at the effects of therapeutic robots on elderly residents in nursing homes, researchers will send around 1,000 robots shaped in various cuddly forms like animals and children to nursing homes around the nation.

    The study, to be carried out in the coming fiscal year, will be carried out by the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED). Hirokazu Morita, head of AMED's Department of Industrial-Academic Collaboration, says, "We want to bring to light the functions and ways of using therapeutic robots that are in demand at nursing facilities, and grow the therapeutic robot industry as one that creates a product useful to society."

    Therapeutic robots such as the seal-shaped robot "Paro," can do things like respond when touched or say hello, and are already widely used at nursing homes, where positive effects like more smiles among residents have been reported. However, there is almost no specific, objective data about what aspects of the robots produce what effects.

    AMED asked makers of therapeutic robots to provide robots that they wanted to have used in the study. Some 20 to 30 varieties will be used at 20 to 30 nursing facilities around the nation. On agreement from nursing home residents, they will be given the robots to use and observed 24 hours a day through a camera to see how their life and behavior changes, including any negative effects. The agency says that there has never been a study on therapeutic robots of this type or scale. The cost of the study, including the cost of buying the robots, is to be about 600 million yen.

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