We’ve all gotten very well acquainted with the inner walls of our home during the pandemic lockdown. Spending so much time at home can get a little lonely, and seeing our friends spending extra with their adorable pets doesn’t help. If you’re getting the itch to get your own companion animal, you’re probably weighing the costs and benefits.

For a lot of people, owning a pet simply isn’t an option without the right circumstances. Even cats need daily attention and can’t be left alone for several days without a pet sitter, which means even more money spent on them besides food and hefty vet bills. Not to mention, if you live in a building that doesn’t allow pets, there’s simply no solution short of moving.

So what do you do if you love animals but can’t have one? Lucky for you, science has come to the rescue with PARO, a new social robot from Japan that’s designed like a seal, even making seal sounds and moving its flippers and head when you speak to or touch it. We promise it’s much more positive than any i-Robot dystopia you might be imagining.

PARO’s Pet Effect
Amid all the isolation that has come from social distancing and lockdown orders, people feel more disconnected than ever, which is a health risk. We’re social animals, and human-to-human contact does more than just entertain us, it improves our mood. It even reduces feelings of pain, according to research. Substantially reducing our connection with other humans, necessary as it may be during a pandemic, can have some unintended side effects on our health. Don’t worry, PARO’s here to help.

Researchers found that even just a single, 60-minute session of hanging out with PARO could yield stress-reduction that actually improved people’s moods. The next time you’re suffering from a headache or dealing with a pain-inducing illness, give PARO a pet and enjoy the wonders of its pain-relieving magic. Researchers found that petting PARO, rather than just having it in the room, yielded a significant decrease in mild and severe pain.

Maybe PARO can live in our medicine cabinet? Side effects: your friends might think you’re a little strange. If PARO sounds like your kind of pet, check out the study to make some plans for bringing your PARO home sometime in our robot-pet filled future.