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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Effects of Robot Seal Paro in Swedish Dementia Care

A Swedish study conduced at the Department of Computer and Information Science at University of Linkoping examined how a social robot can be used in Swedish dementia care and which effects it has on patients. The robot used was the Japanese seal robot PARO that have been developed to provide the same effects as live animals in pet therapy. Contact with animals often results in activity and everyday joy which also are important concepts in the care of people with dementia.
The study was conducted as a five-week case study in a nursing home. The empirical data consisted of direct observations of the residents' interaction with Paro, and semi-structured interviews with staff. Observations were recorded as field notes. The results indicate that the seal, like real animals, can bring activity and well-being of some individuals and encourage a group discussion and increased social contact. However, the staff  compared PARO with a much simpler toys and found that they had similar effects, suggesting that its proactive behavior and functions of speech recognition is not sophisticated enough, alternatively, had been ruled out completely. It is therefore concluded that Paro, to some extent corresponds expectations but that the benefits of an advanced social robot still questionable.

Conclusions from Denmark
In Denmark PARO has been used and evaluated in the PARO project 2008-2010 at the Danish Institute of Technology. In 2008 media reported that Denmark had plans to purchase 1,000 PAROs for use in health care facilities. Denmark was the first country in the world working towards professionalizing the use of welfare robots like Paro, amongst other things, to train and certify welfare and social workers.  The conclusion in Denmark was that professional caregivers must be confident with Paro and motivated for the use and experimentation, i.e. they must learn how to use Paro (professionaly and ethically) at a one-day Certification Course. Successful use of Paro depends on an individual approach to every unique user, i.e. situation and reactions to the technology must be reflected by the caregiver. Paro can entertain, win confidence and stimulate laughter, anger, creativity, communication, discussions, (self)performance, spontaneity, dreams, care giving etc.

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