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Paro's pacifier doubles as its charger.
Visitors at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, interact with Paro. The robot was there as part of the screening of a documentary film on robot companions.Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP Photo
Takanori Shibata, the researcher who invented Paro, describes the sensors and actuators that make the robot behave like a living animal.Photo: Roger Dohmen/Hollandse Hoogte/Redux
Takanori Shibata explains Paro's therapeutic benefits, which include reducing stress and stimulating social interactions.Photo: Dominic Bracco II/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) started the Paro project in 1993. Led by researcher Takanori Shibata, the project unveiled a first-generation robot in 1998. In the years that followed, several new models were developed. In 2004, the eighth generation of the Paro series was developed, and in the following year the robot was commercialized in Japan. In 2009, Paro was introduced in Europe and the United States, where the Food and Drug Administration certified the robot as a "biofeedback medical device." Paro has been used in hospitals and care facilities as a therapeutic tool in about 30 countries.