It seems everyone these days is walking around with some sort of emotional support animal. All jokes aside, for many people such as those that are disabled or elderly they do serve an important purpose. They offer companionship and can help lower anxiety levels. Unfortunately, many people that can benefit from having a service animal are not able to properly take care of them. One company is looking to offer the next best thing by way of robotics.
Meet Tombot the robot emotional support animal. It’s designed to look and act just like a real puppy. The robot pet will respond to where it’s being touched so a pat on the head will make it react differently than a rub on the belly. It will also follow and respond to voice commands. As far as the battery goes, it can last about a full day of moderate use. The Tombot can be plugged in at night to recharge.
While still in development, it’s already getting a lot of buzz. The Kickstarter has already been completely funded with the first units scheduled to ship in August 2020.
Robot Support Animal Will Evolve Over Time
Unlike other robotic pets, the Tombot can evolve over time as the software will be constantly upgraded which will include expansion of behaviors and more features. A smartphone companion app will allow the robotic support animal to be monitored and configured.
The robot dog currently weighs about 7 pounds but developers plan to get the size down to a more manageable 5. As far as the fur goes, its made to be hypo-allergenic and anti-microbial. Developers are working to make the Tombot as easy to clean as possible.
Tombot Inspired by Mother’s Battle With Dementia
Tombot was launched in 2017 by Tom Stevens who got inspiration from his mother’s battle with dementia and her interactions with a pet golden retriever. The animal was an important companion, but as the disease progressed it became harder and harder to properly take care of. Stevens began looking for a solution.
He heavily researched the science of emotional attachment and relationship formation with pets. Seeing how important this type of companionship was for his mother and others living with dementia, he felt something like the Tombot could really make a difference and improve quality of life.
Robot Support Animal Designed by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop
Stevens looked towards the Hollywood animatronic community for help. After an extensive review, Tombot selected Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to provide the artistic design services for the prototype robots.
While targeted at seniors living with dementia, the Tombot could also be valuable to children who aren’t ready to care for a live animal or adults whose lifestyle isn’t conducive to one.
You can find more information about the Tombot on their Kickstarter.