Monday, January 7, 2008

World's most expensive stress toy

Who can resist this cuddly cyber seal? Paro responds to human touch by cooing and wiggling about in a very cute and 'realistic' way (pretty sure normal baby seals would put up with this much manhandling). Used to help the elderly who are unable to look after pets of their own, the robot has proved a big hit, many claiming that, like an ordinary pet, he is useful in combating depression and stress. Costing upwards of 350,000 yen (around 1,500 pounds), those who fall for Paro's charms are looking at a hefty price tag. I tried Paro out at the great robot exhibition in the National Science Museum and, while, the movements seemed natural, beneath the fur you can sense the metallic limbs beneath, totally rigid and inflexible. Unlike normal pets, but more in keeping with standard cyber pet behaviour, Paro throws a tantrum if ignored. At the exhibition there was always someone on hand to stroke Paro so I didn't get to witness his cyber rage. If it's anything like a Furbee fit or a Tamagochi tantrum, I was probably spared an ugly sight. A big fuss is being made about this robot - Danish film director, Phie Ambo, is currently making a film about Paro's therapeutic effects - but I can't really see how different he is from these previous incarnations of computer cuteness and more importantly why he is so expensive.
Spot the difference.

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