Bet you’ve never seen a baby seal sucking on a pacifier before! What you are looking at above is PARO – an adorable fuzzy robotic seal pup designed to help sick and elderly people relax and heal through Animal-Assisted therapy. We spotted Paro at the ICFF, (not really sure why it was there, since a robo-seal isn’t exactly furniture) and instantly fell in love.

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Modeled after the extremely adorable Canadian baby harp seal, Paro was designed to be a vehicle of Animal Therapy for the elderly and hospital patients. Since it has been shown that having pets around can help humans by providing increased relaxation, decreased stress and, in some cases, better vital signs and decreased symptoms of illness, the concept of a healing robot is not at all far-fetched. And unlike a real pet, Paro does not need to be fed or cleaned so keeping it in a hospital is quite easy.

Like a real animal, Paro can express happiness and anger depending on how people interact with it. Each handmade seal pup has five kinds of sensors: tactile, light, audition, temperature, and posture sensors, which it uses to perceive its environment, and can even respond to a new name if its owner chooses to give it one! In terms of durability, Paro has been improved through rigorous tests to have a very long shelf-life, so that people can pet and play with it without fear of breakage.

Though Paro sort of looks like a toy and seems to melt the hearts of children and adults alike – unless you have 4000 bucks to drop on an artificially intelligent seal-bot, I’d recommend going with the real deal and getting a dog or a cat instead.

+ Paro