In episode eight of Aziz Ansari's Master of None, Dev and Arnold are introduced to PARO the seal, a robotic toy seal that is meant to provide companionship to senior citizens, as well as other people who are in need of special care. Well, good news — PARO the seal is real! The adorable automated marine mammal has a variety of sensors, reacting to touch, light, and temperature. According to PARO's official website: "By interaction with people, PARO responds as if it is alive, moving its head and legs, making sounds, and showing your preferred behavior. PARO also imitates the voice of a real baby harp seal." All of this puts PARO high in the running for "most adorable robot of all time."
In the show, we see two PAROs owned by Arnold and Rachel's grandfather and grandmother, respectively. While Rachel's grandmother Carol (played by Lynn Cohen) expresses a distaste for PARO, as well as many of the other methods her nursing home uses to provide entertainment and company, Arnold's grandfather Hampton (played by Ed Setrakian) takes a liking to the robotic seal, finding it brings him companionship. This revelation is shared by Arnold, and eventually Arnold's landlord to whom he bestows the friendly robot. In real life, PARO's use has had immensely positive effects similar to the effects of a real therapy animal.
PARO is a legitimate medical device, as opposed to just a toy, and its high-end tech means that it is not cheap. PARO is "available for lease for $200 per month...or can be bought outright for $6000" but that doesn't seem like too big a price to pay, especially for constant loving companionship. The benefits of pairing a medical patient with the snuggly seal, according to its website, include:
Robots like PARO show that there is a growing interest in making sure that people, especially those suffering from alzheimer's or dementia, are being treated for mental health in addition to physical health. The companionship of a PARO could likely never fully replace that of another human being, but as a cure for loneliness it doesn't seem like there's a better artificial cure than PARO. And, as for the fact that medical professionals are encouraging you to be comfortable with finding a loving companion in a robot — well, if these are the robots that will take over humanity then sign me up for the cuddlepocalypse!