Japanese a really fascinated with robots. Another proof of this fascination is the Paro seal robot.
Here is a article taken from www.paro.jp discussing what Paro is:
Recent advances in robotics have been applied to automation in industrial manufacturing with the primary purpose of optimizing practical systems in terms of such objective measures as accuracy, speed, and cost. However, the resulting robots are mostly kept away from human beings because people can be injured during their everyday functioning.
Unlike industrial robots, “Mental Commitment Robots” are developed to interact with human beings and to make them feel emotional attachment to the robots. Rather than using objective measures, these robots trigger more subjective evaluations, evoking psychological impressions such as “cuteness” and comfort. Mental Commitment Robots are designed to provide 3 types of effects: psychological, such as relaxation and motivation, physiological, such as improvement in vital signs, and social effects such as instigating communication among inpatients and caregivers.
Paro is modeled after a baby harp seal. Paro is covered with soft artificial fur to make people feel comfortable, as if they are touching a real animal.
A baby harp seal spends most of the day sleeping. However, Paro has a diurnal rhythm of morning, daytime, and night. For example, Paro is active during the daytime, but gets sleepy at night. Paro has five kinds of sensors: tactile, light, audition, temperature, and posture sensors, with which it can perceive people and its environment. With the light sensor, Paro can recognize light and dark. He feels being stroked and beaten by tactile sensor, or being held by the posture sensor. Paro can also recognize the direction of voice and words such as its name, greetings, and praise with its audio sensor. Paro can learn to behave in a way that the user prefers, and to respond to its new name. For example, if you stroke it every time you touch it, Paro will remember your previous action and try to repeat that action to be stroked. If you hit it, Paro remembers its previous action and tries not to do that action. By interaction with people, Paro responds as if it is alive, moving its head and legs, making sounds, and showing your preferred behavior. Paro also imitates the voice of a real baby harp seal.
Paro is an autonomous robot, so it can express its feelings, such as surprise and happiness, voluntarily by blinking its eyes and moving its head and legs. This behavior can be perceived as if Paro has feelings.
Please take care of Paro by touching it and talking to it. Paro feels happy when you stroke and hold it softly. Paro feels angry when you hit it. When Paro’s whiskers are touched, it will be very shy and cry or turn its head because it does not like to be touched. You will be happy and relieved through interacting with Paro.
Paro is hand-made so that each Paro has its own individual facial expression. Paro will be very happy if you take care of it for a long time.
Paro’s artificial fur is very hygienic with an anti-bacterial, soil resistant finish, and hair-loss prevention, so that it can be cared for a long time. Paro has an electromagnetic shield, so it can be used by people with a pacemaker. Paro’s reliability and durability have been improved through long-term experimentation, such as the drop test and the stroking test, during which the tactile sensor is stimulated more than 100,000 times.