A study has found that interacting with a therapeutic robot companion made people with mid- to late-stage dementia less anxious and also had a positive influence on their quality of life.
The pilot study, a collaboration led by Professor Wendy Moyle from Griffith University, Australia and involving Northumbria University’s Professor Glenda Cook and researchers from institutions in Germany, investigated the effect of interacting with PARO – a robotic harp seal – compared with participation in a reading group. The study built on Professor Cook’s previous ethnographic work carried out in care homes in North East England.
PARO is fitted with artificial intelligence software and tactile sensors that allow it to respond to touch and sound. It can show emotions such as surprise, happiness and anger, can learn its own name and learns to respond to words that its owner uses frequently.
Eighteen participants, living in a residential aged care facility in Queensland, Australia, took part in activities with PARO for five weeks and also participated in a control reading group activity for the same period. Following both trial periods the impact was assessed, using recognised clinical dementia measurements, for how the activities had influenced the participants’ quality of life, tendency to wander, level of apathy, levels of depression and anxiety ratings.