A new twist on pet therapy for cancer patients

July 18, 2012
Photo: Michael Goulding/Orange County Register

IN THE NEWS: The Orange County Register examined a research study by UC Irvine Medical Center oncologists into whether a robotic baby seal can improve the quality of life for chemotherapy patients:

Kirsten Osgood would love a visit from an adorable therapy dog during her long hours of chemotherapy, but her compromised immune system has made her sensitive to dander.

So she accepted an unlikely alternative cuddling companion, a robot named Paro.

The white fur-covered device is modeled after a squealing harp seal, vastly different from a clunky metal machine circling the floor like Osgood imagined.

“Isn’t it cute?” Osgood said, stroking Paro’s face. “Open your eyes.”

The seal blinked open its lashed eyes and squealed.

Osgood, who is being treated for ovarian cancer at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, found herself instantly charmed by the $8,000 device. Five kinds of sensors allow Paro to respond to its name, fall asleep when the lights go out, coo and flap when petted and look in the direction of a human voice.

Paro robot comes to UC Irvine Medical Center ›

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