by Tombot Robotics
Tombot creates robotic emotional support animals that provide comfort for seniors incapable of caring for a real pet. Our realistic robotic animals are designed to create emotional attachment which helps relieve the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD).
We anticipate our prototype robot “Jennie” will be the first affordable FDA-regulated robotic animal. With artistic design services by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, she’s unlike any mechanical toy animals.
Her patent-pending architecture mimics the anatomy of a real dog for life-like movement in her head and neck. Jennie looks, feels, and even behaves like a live dog.
My mom, Nancy Stevens was the inspiration behind Jennie. Nancy, who suffered from BPSD, always felt that mechanical toy animals and companion baby dolls were too childish for her. But she loved Jennie and even took part in helping me refine Jennie’s features. At times when my mom’s BPSD symptoms were the worst, she would say, “Jennie is helping me relax.”
From conversations and formal studies with other seniors with dementia, I now know my mom’s story is not unique. We founded Tombot in 2017 to bring Jennie to market for those that need her most, and I’m excited to introduce you to her more in depth in this article.
Meet Jennie, The World’s First FDA-Regulated Robotic Animal
Jennie was born from careful scientific theory and process.
Studies show if a senior with dementia can form a robust emotional attachment to an object - traditionally a human baby doll, or stuffed animal - there is a significant reduction in their BPSD symptoms and a corresponding reduction in need for psychotropic drugs. However, few seniors can form these types of connections with traditional objects to gain the benefits.
What I learned from my mom and our own formal studies is seniors typically found the traditional objects too childish. I hypothesized that a life-like and age-appropriate robot for a senior would be more likely to promote emotional attachment.
My team and I designed the robotic technology for Jennie, but to make Jennie look believably realistic we turned to the Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, which is famous for designing and building animatronic creatures for television and film.
Some of the technology that has gone into giving Jennie her realistic responses include:
- Interactive sensors: Jennie is covered with touch sensors that let her respond to your touch. Jennie understands her environment and then acts like a real dog using built-in servo motors. For example, when you scratch her cheek, Jennie assumes you want to do more of that and nuzzles into your hand.
- Voice commands: Jennie responds to voice commands through physical or auditory responses. By default, Jennie responds to her name. But you can rename her to your favorite pet name.
- Real puppy sounds: Jennie has a speaker inside her, which allows her to make real puppy sounds. We based these upon actual recordings of 12-week-old Labrador puppies. The sounds are in response to specific behavior depending on the environment.
- Rechargeable: Like a smartphone, Jennie is designed to last the entire day on a single charge with typical use, and can be plugged-in for recharging overnight.
- Smartphone app: Jennie comes with a smartphone app that allows users to make a number of initial configuration settings including renaming the robot.
- Software updates: The smartphone app receives software updates from Tombot and then delivers them when connected to Jennie.
I’m often asked why did we choose to design Jennie as a labrador puppy? It all goes back to research.
According to the American Kennel Club, Labradors are the most popular dog breed in America and have been for the last 30 years. Plus, people associate friendly traits with yellow dogs and floppy ears. Considering all these, the yellow lab is a great breed to mimic and to promote emotional attachment.
Plus, who doesn’t believe that lab puppies are cute?
When BBC featured Jennie in action at Las Vegas's Prestige Living Facility for seniors with dementia, you’ll see the seniors' reactions are genuinely delighted at Jennie’s cuteness factor, as if they were interacting with a live puppy.
Help Us Bring Jennie’s First Litter of Puppies To Your Loved Ones
My team, especially, Hank Schorz and Jesse Schorz, have made significant contributions to Jennie with the support of thousands of people who have helped us in various ways.
From the hundreds of seniors who participated in our studies, to their family members, to senior care professionals, and the technical advisors at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, bringing Jennie to life has been a community effort.
Though the work and research is ongoing, the result is something I know my mom would love and recommend to her community—a realistic robotic pup designed to provide the same comfort and support as a real furry friend.
At the moment Jennie is one-of-a-kind, and there’s a large and growing waitlist of customers eagerly anticipating her first litter so they can have their own Jennie at home.
Bringing Jennie’s first litter to market at speed requires significant capital, and to move production along faster, we’ve opened our doors to everyday investors through StartEngine.
Related: Regulation Crowdfunding 101: Learn How You Can Own Shares in Tombot
If your loved ones are struggling with BPSD like my mom did and believe in the benefits of Jennie, then I encourage you to join our investor community. By investing a minimum of $249 today, you can help us bring Jennie to market tomorrow.
If you have any questions about our investment opportunity, please feel free to leave your questions on our StartEngine page, where I’ll get back to you immediately.