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ASTRI to develop Smart Pet Dog for elderly

Image Credits: ASTRI, Press Release

To cater to the needs of the elderly in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area, the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) is developing a smart companion pet dog which can chat in Cantonese and Mandarin and can even remind the elderly to take their medicine when the Bluetooth function is enabled.

The smart pet dog is expected to be launched in phases next year and is expected to sell for less than HKD 1,500 each. Eligible local elderly and rehabilitation service units can apply to the Social Welfare Department for the “Innovation and Technology Fund for Application in Elderly and Rehabilitation Care” and get subsidies for their purchase.

ASTRI introduced the smart pet dog during the four-day Gerontech and Innovation Expo cum Summit 2020 from 19 – 22 November 2020. ASTRI has been applying its cutting-edge technology and innovation to address societal pain points. This smart pet dog can support elderly care as Hong Kong faces challenges associated with an ageing population.

The project coordinator and Associate Principal Engineer at ASTRI stated that through the subsidy of Innovation and Technology Fund for Application in Elderly and Rehabilitation Care provided by the Social Welfare Department, ASTRI introduced the smart pet dog which originally had Japanese language capabilities to Hong Kong intending to enhance and localise it to suit the needs of the elderly here.

About 200 to 300 sets of Cantonese and Putonghua dialogues will be added to the smart pet dog so that it can “listen” to the elderly in Hong Kong and the Mainland and respond accordingly. Such a response can include caring and greeting the host, as well as greeting and talking endearingly.

At the beginning of next year, the team will collaborate with the Evangelical Lutheran Church Social Service to arrange smart pet dogs to be companions for hundreds of elderly people who live alone and stay in daycare centres, community centres and elderly homes to better understand the needs of the elderly in Hong Kong and optimise their conversations.

The project coordinator said that a company has already indicated an interest in commercialising the smart pet dog. It is expected to be sold in Hong Kong, the Greater Bay Area and other parts of China in phases from mid-2021 onwards, he added.

ASTRI will further incorporate Bluetooth functions for the smart pet dog to enhance its functionality. The caregiver will only need to enter the medication time for the elderly through a mobile app, then the smart pet dog will remind the elderly to take the medication on time and will also ask if they have taken them, and finally report back to the caregiver through the app, he said.

He also said that other organisations can develop more applications in the future based on ASTRI’s application programming interface. And through Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT), one can further enhance the functions of the smart pet dog, such as continuously monitoring and analysing the responses and the speed of speech of the elderly while chatting, thus enabling social workers and family members to better understand the elderly’s health status.

Recent research shows that the global robotic pet dogs market 2019-2023 is expected to post a CAGR of close to 21% during the forecast period.

Robotic pet dogs have recently emerged as an effective way to alleviate depression, anxiety, distress, and loneliness, especially among the geriatric population. It has been observed that the regular interaction with robotic pet dogs at least thrice a week can decrease stress and anxiety. These robotic dogs are designed in such a way that they mimic most of the activities that live dogs do, such as they can wink their eyes, wag their tail, bark and many more. Thus, the adoption of robotic pet dogs is expected to increase significantly, which will drive the growth of the market during the forecast period.


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