Intelligent System Co., manufacturer of the Paro baby seal robot, says it has improved the therapeutic toy, making it more suitable for use in nursing homes.

The new Paro is lighter and is designed exclusively for therapeutic purposes, the startup based in Toyama Prefecture said Friday. It will be available for sale mainly for medical and welfare facilities in Japan later this month.

Paro was developed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. The robot responds to humans when called and exhibits delight when it is petted.

About 3,000 of the robots have been sold in and outside Japan, some as pet substitutes. Studies have confirmed its therapeutic effects, such as relieving and preventing symptoms of dementia and reducing stress for caregivers, according to Intelligent System.

The firm improved Paro based on users' opinions at domestic and foreign facilities, including in Denmark, where about 300 units are being used in nursing homes.

The new version is lighter and can operate for a longer period of time, according to the company.

When it is slapped, the existing model makes movements that appear to signal displeasure. The new model makes fewer such movements, responding more with accepting gestures, the company said.