We all need friends and MARCo may just be your new bestie

We all need friends and MARCo may just be your new bestie

As many individuals who struggle with mental health issues continue to rise worldwide, support and solutions are highly desirable. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, what better time to share an exciting new product explicitly designed to help address behavioral health services which seem to be stretched thin.

Jacob Boyle is on a mission to increase the quality and availability of mental healthcare for all. He’s doing this by creating interactive robot companions. MARCo Technologies LLC is a New Jersey-based company specializing in producing affordable robot “friends” for anyone struggling with depression, anxiety, or mood disorders. The robot, named MARCo (Mental Health Assisting Robot Companion), weighs less than two pounds and is soft with two eyes and no mouth. There are currently two models that sell online ($499 or $720), but the company is endeavoring to build a $300 model.

By holding MARCo’s hand, the robot is activated. It listens to identify keywords that will allow it to either give advice or support, provide updates to caregivers, and/or notify an emergency contact in case of emergency. As MARCo listens, it also creates a written journal from which personalized activities are identified and employed to address the needs (a short YouTube video illustrates its use and benefits). MARCo provides companionship by listening, understanding, and using stories, games, and activities to bring cheer. MARCo provides its user with guided meditation and relaxation to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Finally, the robot can monitor mental health effects on the individual by tracking physical indicators (e.g., eating, sleeping habits) to encourage balance.

Based on cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and behavioral activation, MARCo uses psychology-based interventions and social gestures to increase positive feelings. Perhaps a MARCo robot will be your best friend, too.

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Kristi Probst