Meet Therabot. Developed by Mississippi State University’s Social, Therapeutic, & Robotic Systems (STaRS) Lab, the robotic beagle is changing the furry face of animal-assisted therapy.
Director Dr. Cindy Bethel is leading a team in creating and perfecting an artificial fuzzbutt that’s totally hypoallergenic, and bridges the gap between real dogs and stuffed animals. Many people struggling with PTSD and other emotional and mental conditions also have allergies, or a fear of dogs that prevents the use of live therapy animals.
Tiny Therabot is designed to respond to touch. It nuzzles and vocalizes just like a real dog, and right itself if flipped over. Out of ten possible creature designs, the Beagle was the most popular design. Further proof that DOGS RULE.
“Therabot will pat somebody, have the ability to nuzzle against you. It has the ability to make sounds like a dog. I expect the results to be very similar to what you would see with animal-assisted therapy with an actual dog. We’re just extending it by having it be more affordable, something you can hold in your lap easily, that you can take with you to go home.”
Technical issues are being worked out on the prototype, so Therabot won’t be on the market for some time.
“We hope to start a basic user study, just looking how people interact with it, in the fall. I’m hoping by early next summer there will be some integrations with clinicians to see how they like using it and incorporate it into their therapy sessions and doing some field work with it.”
Still, it’s exciting that this option is on the horizon, and will someday be a reality to help the millions suffering from PTSD.