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DISTINCT project researchers find that low-cost robots may have the potential to improve the psychosocial health of people with dementia

Monday 01 March 2021

Robotic pets are a seen as a viable substitute to animal-assisted therapy, and have been used to provide companionship and psychosocial benefits for people with dementia. However, the affordability of such technology has remained an issue. For instance, a unit of a pet robot can range from EUR 1,500 to EUR 6,000. This can affect the accessibility of this technology for people with dementia. In an article that was recently published in the journal JMIR Rehabilitation and Assistive technology, researchers working on the DISTINCT project explored the potential of lower-cost alternatives.

In comparison to pet robots that were shared among people in group settings, lower-costed pet robots were more often used individually. This could be attributed to the more affordable cost, making individual ownership of the technology more accessible. In view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this is especially relevant, given that shared use of devices is discouraged, in order to reduce the transmission of infections. The researchers also found that the lower-cost robot pets had similar positive impacts to those seen in studies using other costlier robotic pets, such as reduced agitation and improved mood.

This research suggests that, despite the differences in technological capabilities between lower and higher cost robots, the lower-cost options also hold the potential to address some of the psychosocial needs of people with dementia. However, higher quality of evidence is needed to confirm these findings. The researchers also recommend that future studies should compare the use of low-cost robotic pets with other pet robots.

The full text of the research article can be found here: https://rehab.jmir.org/2021/1/e25340

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