AI companion robots have been used for years to help patients struggling with illness feel comforted when loved ones are unable to be by their side. For some medical professionals, the robot of choice is Paro — an artificially intelligent companion seal invented by roboticist Takanori Shibata. Paro’s companionship qualities have been effective at reducing the use of psychotropic drugs, improving blood pressure and oxygenation levels, and stoking emotional responses in Alzheimer’s patients.

During the coronavirus pandemic, new use cases for AI companion robots have surfaced. In addition to patient care, Paro has been used as a stress-relief tool for overextended virus testing employees and to combat loneliness in frontline workers that have isolated themselves to protect their families from contracting the disease.

“Since we can’t have human interaction right now, it’s certainly a lot better than nothing,” said MIT robotics ethicist Kate Darling about the use of AI companion robots during the pandemic.

Other companion robots on the market include Sony’s child-monitoring dog Aibo and Joy for All’s animal-like robots, to name a few.

Watch Paro in action, courtesy of CNBC: