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UC Students Working To Purr-fect Robotic Companions

robotic pets
Ann Thompson
The robotic kitten at left is now out on the market. Students are working on the dog prototype. It is larger than the current model and moves differently.

New research shows there are health benefits for seniors who interact with robotic pets. It provides companionship and decreases agitation in dementia patients. Soon it may do more than that as University of Cincinnati design and engineering students rework robotic companions currently on the market.

"There's something magical that happens when we gave them these robotic companions," says Director of the Master of Design program at DAAP Claudia Rebola. "There's no words to describe how wonderful and meaningful it is to work on this type of project for the adult population."

Rebola has a three-year National Science Foundation grant, in combination with Brown University, Butler Hospital and Hasbro to propose improvements to Joy For All Companion Pets, now owned by Ageless Innovation.


Working with Fabulous Furs in Covington, they have redesigned a robotic dog to more closely resemble a Yorkshire Terrier. Eventually it might have a "smart collar" that could measure vitals, prevent falls and be programmed by the caregiver to bark at certain times to keep the elderly person engaged.

Ann Thompson has years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology