Tag: unconditional love
Meet GeriJoy. He’s a virtual dog. He’s a talking dog. He’s even described as “a compassionate” dog.
He was developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be an interactive companion for older people with dementia or memory problems, serving to provide what his makers call “continual stimulation.”
But there’s something about GeriJoy, noble as the idea may be, that I find a little bit patronizing, a little bit insulting, and highly phony. His creation also seems an awfully circuitous and robotic route to take to provide a virtual experience with an animated creature when the real thing is so abundantly available.
Clearly, I’m cynical, or at least wary, when it comes to technology — and perhaps more. It was only yesterday, after all, that I cruelly bashed soft and fuzzy stuffed animals.
Despite that, techno-wizards keep trying, intent, it seems, on trying to capture a no-shed, no-drool, no bark, no worries version of dog — be it stuffed, virtual, or mechanical — and then convince you that their inanimate, or animated, object will love you unconditionally forever.
The truth is, close as they might come — and cloning probably comes closest — they never will. Ha ha. Take that.
If GeriJoy, the virtual dog, is making some old person happy, even if it’s a delusional kind of happy, we’re all for it. If it’s being used as a substitute for human attention, we’re not. With all the growth in and demands on senior services and facilities for the elderly, there’s a tendency to look for quick and easy shortcuts, when the keys to doing job right are already obvious — caring staff, ample staff, staff with hearts.
And maybe some dogs — real dogs.
What I’d rather see is not a nursing home where dozens of residents are lined up in wheelchairs, stroking animated images on their hand held devices, but one that’s taking advantage of programs — or even creating some — in which dog ownership among residents is encouraged, and assistance with those dogs is provided; ones where dogs live under communal ownership, or short of that, therapy dogs visit regularly; one that’s investing in building a qualified and caring staff, as opposed to investing in devices that substitute for real human, or dog, contact.
Here’s how the GeriJoy website touts the product: “Have an older loved one who is lonely and suffers from dementia or geriatric depression? GeriJoy can help. We provide talking pets that are intelligent, compassionate, and available 24/7 to talk about anything, including photos and updates from family.”
The virtual dog can be displayed on a computer or other Internet-connected device. The virtual dog, the website claims, ”provides all the availability and unconditional love of an adorable pet, combined with the ability to talk with true intelligence and compassion … It’s as if it lives inside a picture frame, so you get the benefits of pet therapy without any smells, allergies, cleaning up, bites, or food and veterinary bills.”
The virtual dog can provide around the clock stimulation, his developers say, and, in the video snippet above, GeriJoy certainly sounds stimulating, or stimulated, almost orgasmically so. “Oh, you’re so good,” GeriJoy coos as an elderly man strokes the image on the screen.
We’re not sure if that’s what GeriJoy told the Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Healthy Aging Forum this month when he appeared before it. He’ll also be on exhibit at the AARP Health Innovation@50+ Tech Expo on May 31 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, according to the AARP blog.
To get GeriJoy, one must subscribe, and pay from $99 to $129 a month. The hardware costs up to $349 for the most sophisticated, Internet-connected version.
GeriJoy was co-founded by Victor Wang, a former Canadian Army officer who did research on human-machine interaction for NASA while at MIT. He says he was inspired to develop the virtual dog by his grandmother in Taiwan, who became depressed while she was living alone.
Wang says GeriJoy can even serve as a watchdog. In one case, a user’s human caregiver was being verbally abusive, and GeriJoy “contacted the user’s daughter to let her know about it.”
“Whatever your loved one wants to know, the companion can find out and report back,” the website says. “It can send and receive messages and photos between you and your loved one, also via the Internet. All this is done through the intuitive metaphor of a talking dog. Your loved one doesn’t even need to know what a computer is.”
We don’t care if the day comes when a virtual dog can cook dinner, push a wheelchair, administer medications or help you understand your health insurance.
A real dog is better — even with his shedding and drooling. Real dogs bring one into, and keep one in, the moment. Real dogs can help you keep a grip on reality, as opposed to pulling you into fantasy land. And real dogs offer a true form of love and validation — even if they can’t say, at least with words, “Oh, you are so good.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 24th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: aarp, aging, animals, animated, app, assisted living, computer, dementia, dog, dogs, elderly, gerijoy, health, image, internet, memory, mit, nursing homes, pets, talking, technology, unconditional love, virtual, virtual dog
As you tally up the things you’re thankful for today, don’t forget the beast under the table desperately hoping, hoping, hoping that maybe you’ll drop some food.
(But don’t let him have any cooked turkey bones, grapes, raisins or chocolate.)
This video from SoulPancake does a nice job of reminding us what we love about our pets.
It’s a simple format — interviews with people at the park explaining what their pets (and they’re not all dogs) mean to them.
Soul Pancake was established in 2008 by actor Rainn Wilson (Dwight on “The Office”). It is a book, but also a website, and also a “movement.”
It’s intended to be a forum — both on the Internet and elsewhere — that encourages people to explore what it means to be human and allows them to interact around topics such as art, philosophy, creativity, and spirituality.
And sometimes dogs.
In honor of her former dog, and in recognition of the ability of dogs to bring people out of their shells, Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank says she plans to start a non profit organization to bring needy children and animals together.
“I’ve seen firsthand how it changes the path of the soul, for the animal and for the child,” Swank told The Associated Press while visiting Bucharest.
The charity, to be called Hilaroo, combines her name and that of her late dog, Karoo (South African for “countryside”), a corgi-Jack Russell mix she rescued while filming Red Dust in Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape.
Last week, the 37-year-old actress was in Paris for the Salvatore Ferragamo Cruise Collection 2013 show, but she made a side trip to Romania to visit projects set up by the animal welfare foundation Vier Pfoten (Four Paws) that encourage interaction between stray dogs and institutionalized people.
Along with her was Kai, a Jack Russell terrier she rescued in Los Angeles and who accompanies her on most trips.
Bucharest has an estimated 35,000 strays living on the streets, and what to do about them is an ongoing debate between those who believe they should be exterminated and those who advocate shelters and sterilization programs.
Swank, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of a waitress-turned-boxer in “Million Dollar Baby,” told the AP that — while viewed as a problem — the strays of Bucharest can also be seen as a solution, specifically in programs where street dogs and disadvantaged people are brought together.
“I believe that is so healing to these kids who don’t trust people anymore. The unconditional love of an animal is very healing and teaches them about not just unconditional love but about a relationship, about responsibility, about anger management.”
Visiting a retirement home, she talked about one example: “There was a woman didn’t get out of bed, and after a few weeks of the dog coming to visit she’s up walking,” she said. “The dog literally got her out of bed.”
Next month, Swank begins work on “Martha and Mary,” an HBO movie about two women trying to eradicate malaria. It will be shot in North Carolina and South Africa.
Before leaving Bucharest, she urged people to neuter unwanted dogs and cats rather than kill them.
“I believe in a “No-Kill” policy,” she said. “Hopefully (we are) getting to a place where we have “No-Kill” universally and just a more caring attitude in general to all animals.”
(Photo: Swank with Karoo; Most Wanted/Flynet, via People magazine)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 29th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: actress, animal welfare, animals, bucharest, charity, disadvantaged, dogs, four paws, hilaroo, hilary, insititutionalized, kai, karoo, million dollar baby, neuter, oscar, pets, romania, spay, stray dogs, strays, swank, unconditional love, vier pfoten, visit, winning