The psychosocial effects of a companion robot: a randomized controlled trial

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2013 Sep;14(9):661-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2013.02.007. Epub 2013 Mar 30.


Objectives: To investigate the psychosocial effects of the companion robot, Paro, in a rest home/hospital setting in comparison to a control group.

Design: Randomized controlled trial. Residents were randomized to the robot intervention group or a control group that attended normal activities instead of Paro sessions. Sessions took place twice a week for an hour over 12 weeks. Over the trial period, observations were conducted of residents' social behavior when interacting as a group with the robot. As a comparison, observations were also conducted of all the residents during general activities when the resident dog was or was not present.

Setting: A residential care facility in Auckland, New Zealand.

Participants: Forty residents in hospital and rest home care.

Measurements: Residents completed a baseline measure assessing cognitive status, loneliness, depression, and quality of life. At follow-up, residents completed a questionnaire assessing loneliness, depression, and quality of life. During observations, behavior was noted and collated for instances of talking and stroking the dog/robot.

Results: In comparison with the control group, residents who interacted with the robot had significant decreases in loneliness over the period of the trial. Both the resident dog and the seal robot made an impact on the social environment in comparison to when neither was present. Residents talked to and touched the robot significantly more than the resident dog. A greater number of residents were involved in discussion about the robot in comparison with the resident dog and conversation about the robot occurred more.

Conclusion: Paro is a positive addition to this environment and has benefits for older people in nursing home care. Paro may be able to address some of the unmet needs of older people that a resident animal may not, particularly relating to loneliness.

Keywords: Paro; Robotics; depression; human-robot interaction; loneliness; quality of life.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Depression / psychology
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Quality of Life
  • Robotics*