Brown researchers to add medication reminders to Hasbro's animatronic pets for seniors

Hasbro, a multinational toy company based in Pawtucket, R.I., joined forces with researchers from Providence, R.I.-based Brown University to design robotic pets for senior citizens, the university announced Nov. 1.

The three-year project, dubbed Affordable Robotic Intelligence for Elderly Support, is funded through a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Under the grant, a research team led by Brown's Humanity-Centered Robotics Initiative will add artificial intelligence capabilities to Hasbro's "Joy for All Companion Pets," a line of animatronic dogs and cats targeted toward seniors in need of companionship.

The researchers plan to study how the ARIES project might best address challenges seniors experience on a daily basis. For example, the team might develop a sensor system that enables the robotic pet to identify and monitor objects around the house, such as keys or eyeglasses, or technology that reminds a user of routines, such as medication regimens.

The researchers also plan to study effective ways for the robotic pet to communicate with the user, including through nudges and purrs. The researchers hope to extend a prototype of the robotic pet to test users by the end of the three-year period.  

"Hasbro did a great job developing a product that can provide comfort and joy for older people," said Bertram Malle, PhD, a professor in Brown's department of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences, co-director of HCRI and principal investigator on the grant. "What we want to do now is leverage our expertise in cognitive and computer science to add capabilities to this robotic pet."

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