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By Monica E. Oss

July 17, 2010

If you remember the 1960s television cartoon program “The Jetsons” (I’m certainly dating myself, though I did watch the reruns), you undoubtedly remember Rosie, the household robot. I really didn’t appreciate Rosie’s functionality as a youth – but I have certainly have longed for Rosie as a working adult. The household robot hasn’t quite made it here, but we do have our first service robot designed to assist consumers with disability – Paro. (To read about the PARO “helper robot,” see the OPEN MINDS Weekly News Wire article, “PARO, the Robot Seal, Being Used as Intervention for Dementia.”  )

   

A Japanese company has introduced its service robot technology in the form of a furry seal. The Paro was developed in the early nineteen-nineties and has been in use in Japan since 2003, largely to serve as a low-maintenance, highly interactive companion for elderly individuals living with dementia-related illnesses. Since then, the robot has grown in use across Europe and was cleared by the Federal Drug Administration for use in the United States in 2009. The Paro is used to reduce patient stress, stimulate interaction between patients and caregivers, increase patient socialization, and calm aggressive behaviors.

There is nothing magic about the Paro. But, like many other emerging technologies, such as remote monitors and smart homes, it is one more tool that will enable more consumers to stay in their homes and have control over their own care and their own lives. As we have seen in many aspects of American life—self-service check out lines, on-line banking, etc.—consumers want to be in control and do more for themselves, rather than relying on a third party for services. And, this type of self-empowered care will be less expensive for payers in the long-run as well. As always, the competitive advantage will go to the organizations that make the best strategic use of these new technologies.

Sincerely,
Monica E. Oss
Chief Executive Officer, OPEN MINDS

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