Robotic Teddy Bear Can Make A Child Patient Recover Faster in Hospital
Use of social robots in
pediatric wards in hospitals can help create positive emotions for child
patients and help in faster recovery according to a study by MIT Media Lab,
Boston Children's Hospital and Northeastern University.
A robotic teddy bear named 'Huggable' was deployed across several pediatric units. Three groups were randomly created among 50 pediatric patients- one group was assigned Huggable, the other a tablet-based virtual Huggable and or a traditional plush teddy bear.
It was found that Huggable
teddy bear created positive emotions overall and this helped them move out of
bed and interact with the robots. They also invited the robots to come back to
meet the family members later on.
This is the first study done to explore social robotics in a real-world inpatient pediatric setting. Huggable is designed to assist healthcare specialists and not to replace them. There may be kids who don't want to talk to people but at ease with robotic stuffed animals. This takes away the pain and uneasiness of being part of a hospital environment, according to the researchers.
The first prototype of Huggable plush teddy bear was developed in 2006 and is operated by a specialist in the hall outside the child's room. Customised software enables the operator to control the robot's facial expressions, actions and voice. The kids involved in the study were 3-10 years old.
In future, the robots may become fully autonomous and children may be allowed to take home the robot and bring them back to hosptial on a subsequent visit. The robot will be able to monitor the progress of the child and adherence to regimens.