For Autumn Kerr, getting her dad to smile sometimes requires an artificial touch.
“It looks and sounds like a dog,” Kerr said as she stroked the back of a robo therapy dog prototype. Kerr’s father, Dennis, has Parkinson’s Disease and has difficulty moving and speaking.
“Something like this would help him engage his mind and calm his body,” said Kerr.
Tom Stevens created his company, TomBot, after his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her beloved dog had to be taken away. “My mom was devastated, so I started looking at substitutes for live animal companions,” Stevens explains.
Dr. Maja Mataric of the University of Southern California says therapy pets may help patients cope with loneliness, anxiety and stress.
“There are now increasing the number of studies that show that people really thrive and feel better when they have some amount of physical contact in their lives,” said Mataric.
The robo therapy dogs go on the market next year for about $450.