New Robots Help Humans Cope with Illness (Aug 2, 2009) — Japan’s the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, has designed a humanoid robot called Nao that can help humans to cope with illnesses such as people with cognitive problems like autism or dementia.

robotsThese robots can cook, dance to Michael Jackson songs or guide the blind.

The robot danced to Jackson’s “Billie Jean” with a black hat on its head in Spain at one of the world’s biggest annual gatherings of new technology enthusiasts.

“I am thrilled to be at the Campus Party!” it said in a mechanical voice in English.

The robot can recognise voices and faces and be instructed to turn on a personal computer, read e-mails or an online newspaper as well as be used to stimulate sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease with memory exercises.

The robot is 58cm high and it is covered in artificial white fur called Paro that resembles a seal pup which can perceive people and its environment.

“It is a companion robot; at the same time it is a robot that can help with day to day tasks,” said Romain Daros of French firm Aldebaran Robotics which designed Nao.

The cuddly robot has a diurnal rhythm, being active during the day but getting sleepy at night and reacts when it is spoken to or stroked.

The robot can provide a way to calm or at least shift mood for people with severe memory loss. It is also useful in engaging children in paediatric wards and can help people with autism.

“A seal was chosen because it does not arouse any emotional memories, like a dog or a cat would,” said Ignacio Villoch, the marketing director of Spanish bank BBVA’s innovation centre which is presenting the robot in Spain.

Around 6 000 people are expected to attend the Campus Party in Valencia, which unites participants from all over the world to share ideas, experiences and all types of activities related to computers, communications and new technology.

The company plans to start selling the robot in 2011 for between 3 000 and 3 500 euros. It is already available for sale in Japan and several northern European nations.

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