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'Paro,' the Baby Seal Service Robot From Japan, Finds a New Home in the United States With Help From JETRO

PITTSBURGH, April 9, 2008 /PRNewswire/ -- A company founded by an industry veteran in the robotics field became the new U.S. and Canada sales and distribution outlet for the Japanese "Paro" therapy robot through an agreement with Intelligent Systems Co., Ltd. (ISC) of Japan, announced today at the RoboBusiness Conference & Expo 2008 in Pittsburgh, PA.

Paro Robots U.S., Inc., founded by Walter Weisel, began its development through a meeting set up by the Chicago office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO Chicago) in June 2007. At that time, Weisel met Paro's inventor, Takanori Shibata, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).

That meeting set the stage for continued discussions among Weisel, Shibata and Intelligent Systems Co., Ltd., the company that holds the license from AIST to produce and sell Paro. JETRO played a key role in encouraging those discussions, right through the meeting earlier this year that led to the formal agreement.

"Paro" is an advanced robot modeled after a baby harp seal, used to provide the benefits of animal therapy for those who cannot take care of real animals and those who live in places where live animals are prohibited, including hospitals, elder care centers and nursing homes. Paro first went on sale in Japan in March 2005.

According to Ralph Inforzato, JETRO Chicago's Director of Business Development, "Paro will be introduced to the U.S. through a partnership by two of the industries' thought-leaders, Shibata and Weisel, and we're very honored that we could facilitate this relationship."

JETRO has been bringing U.S. and Japanese companies together for over 50 years. Through a local network of six offices in the United States, JETRO provides a wide-range of services, such as timely market intelligence, extensive business development support, and relevant business events, all designed to encourage business partnerships between American companies and Japan.

Mr. Weisel, now Chairman and CEO of Paro Robots U.S., Inc., commented, "I'd like to credit JETRO for the introduction to Takanori Shibata, inventor of the Paro robot. We now have a fantastic opportunity to help mankind with therapeutic service robots."

Walter K. Weisel is a pioneer in the field of robotics, automation and high performance control systems with a distinguished career that spans over 35 years.

Paro Robots U.S., Inc. will be based in Fort Myers, Florida, and will initially be working with hospitals and similar facilities to introduce Paro to the U.S. market.

More information about Paro Robots U.S., Inc. can be found at The JETRO Chicago office can be reached at 312-832-6000. More information about JETRO's programs in the United States can be found at

SOURCE Japan External Trade Organization
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