The main reason we went on holiday to Japan was that The Boyfriend wanted to indulge his inner geek; cue frantic googling as to where he could see Asimo the robot. The answer to this is Miraikan: aka The National Museum of Emerging Science and Technology in Tokyo. For obvious reasons I had no interest in this establishment, until I spotted someone else who could also be found in the same museum: Paro The Robot Seal.
I first found Paro on a website where you can buy him for US$6000. See Paro is not a fluffy toy – he is a Robotic Therapy Seal – in fact, according to the Guiness Book of Records he’s THE World’s Most Therapeutic Robot (I find it hard to believe there’s a large competition for this category).
Designed to react to human interaction he’s created for people who can’t have pets to play with and aims to simulate the same health benefits you get from playing with a real animal. Why he’s a seal in this case and not a cat or dog I’m not sure – but I think it has something to do with Paro’s description as a ‘ ‘mental commitment’ robot. Contrary to what The Boyfriend will have you believe, this is a not a description of what should happen to anyone who contemplates spending US$6000 buying one for themselves, but instead indicates that he’s designed to be so unbearably cute you have to form an emotional attachment to him which boosts his health benefits.
Health benefits you say? Why yes -and according to the ‘results’ page on his website, those benefits are stacking up. After playing with Paro, a child with developmental disorders started to speak and smile, he aids nurses and carers with burnout and old people in nursing homes love him. Tests measuring hormone levels also find that playing with Paro reduces stress hormones in the same way as playing with a real animal does and he does all this while fluttering his eyelashes and moving his little flippers.
When I met Paro, all I did was squeal in a manner not hugely befitting to my age; seriously I haven’t been this excited about meeting someone since I sat outside Marc Almond’s record company in 1982. Yes he’s slightly more grey/grubby than the pristine white version on the ‘for sale’ website, but tell me you wouldn’t squeal too. If anyone wishes to purchase one for me, my name and address can be provided for delivery.
If you like this post, you might also like my travel blog Destination>Differentville which highlights fun, quirky or just plain bonkers sights, ideas and places around the world. Click the link above to check it out.