More than a cuddly pet
From Singapore, the Huggler is a robot in the guise of a cuddly toy that entertains elderly people, as well as detecting non-verbal emotions and diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.
On the outside, the Huggler takes the form of a funny-looking monkey. Inside, however, are a variety of sensors that allow the toy to react to stimuli from its users. The monkey emits different sounds depending on whether its being stroked, tickled, or squeezed, entertaining elderly people as well as providing mental stimulation and combatting loneliness. It also picks up on the emotional state of the person playing with it, recording the data and making it available to caregivers to analyze the feelings of their patients. According to the developers, the information is detailed enough to help catch signs of mental illnesses such as dementia in older people.
Currently on trial at the Hougang branch of St Luke’s Eldercare, the team behind the Huggler want to continue to develop the product with the hopes of giving it a general release within two years.