Loneliness runs rampant among seniors suffering from dementia or pre-dementia. Tom Stevens, a 35-year tech-industry vet, saw it himself as the syndrome took hold of his mother. “I started wondering if there was a tech-based solution that could do some good,” Stevens says. The result is the Tombot Jennie ($450), a hyperrealistic emotional-support robot that looks, feels and behaves much like a real puppy—minus the floor-wetting. Designed by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, the uncanny Jennie resembles a 15-lb. Lab puppy and includes dozens of internal sensors, allowing her to wag her tail when petted, respond to voice commands, and perk up and bark when asked if she wants a treat. Tombot plans to incorporate medical-alert capabilities into Jennie before shipping the robo-dog to the company’s 5,000-person preorder list in 2022. —J.R. Sullivan

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at