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Paro the Robo-Seal

It might be the cuddliest medical device ever to cause an ethical quandary.paro the robo seal

Five years ago, a Japanese robot manufacturer introduced Paro to the world. Built to resemble a baby harp seal—with a plush coat of antibacterial fur—Paro was hailed in Japan as a pioneer among socially interactive robots, one that would help lift the spirits of millions of elderly adults.

Watch Japanese nursing-home residents interact with Paro, a baby seal pet-therapy robot.

It never quite caught on. “It doesn’t do much other than utter weird sounds like ‘heeee’ or ‘huuuu,'” says Tomoko Iimura, whose adult day-care center in Tsukuba City keeps its Paro in a closet. Continue reading