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How Social Robots can be of Help in the Pediatric Unit


Studies indicate that incorporating social robots in pediatric section in the hospitals can expose sick children to positive emotions. Many hospitals incorporate interventions inside pediatric units where child experts help hospitalized children with coping and developmental support.

This comprises of preparation, play, a behavioral diversion before, during, and immediately after challenging procedures, education, and for routine medical care. A conventional intervention involves creating a conducive environment through various activities such as

Findings from a Study

According to a study published in the Pediatrics journal, researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital MIT Media Lab, and Northeastern University incorporated a huggable robot teddy bear in various pediatric wards at Boston Children’s Hospital. Over 50 hospitalized children were categorized to form three interventions which comprised of a tablet-oriented virtual huggable, a huggable, and a conventional teddy bear.

Overall, the huggable teddy bear displayed better results compared to the remaining two options. The study displayed the effectiveness of incorporating huggable in the interventions. However, the results showed that children who used the huggable teddy bear showed positive emotions with many managing to get out of their beds and walk more.

Further, they displayed an emotional connection with the robot for instance; directing personal questions at them and encouraging them to come back and interact with their families. All these enhanced physical, emotional, and verbal results are positive factors which can play a major role in promoting quicker recovery for hospitalized children.

So far, this is the inaugural study to investigate social robotics in an actual world pediatric surrounding with ill children. Previous studies were carried on in laboratories were either carried on in a public setting with no patient identification or evaluated few children. It’s worth noting that the huggable robot is specially designed to help health care experts and does not in any way replace them.

Cynthia Breazeal, a media arts and sciences associate professor say; they are just but companions. She continues to say that their technologies are designed from a teammate point of view. Cynthia opines that they hardly focus on the child robot interaction, rather, they are committed to assisting experts and parents take excellent care of their sick children.

Improving Mood

The huggable teddy bear was first released in the market in the year complete with a screen showing animated eyes. The main aim is to ensure that the robot is fully autonomous even though a specialist currently operates it remotely inside a hall right outside the children’s room. By using custom software, an expert can regulate the robot’s body actions, facial expressions, as well as direct the robot’s gaze.

The experts can also hold discussions through a speaker where their voice can shift automatically to a high pitch to produce a child similar voice, as well as watch over the participants through camera feed. The huggable teddy bear comes with a tablet-oriented remotely oriented avatar which features identical gestures.

During the huggable interventions involving children aged between three to ten years, an expert would use the robot to sing nursery rhymes to children.  Older children would engage in I spy game which involved guessing an object as described by an expert via the huggable teddy bear.

The researchers would use questionnaires and self-reports to record the impact huggable has on patients and their families. Further questionnaires analyzed the patient’s positive moods, pain, and anxiety. The researchers fixed cameras in the children’s room to capture and assess speech patterns categorizing them as sad or joyful with the use of the software.

A big percentage of children and their guardians said that the children were happier to play with huggable compared to the conventional or avatar teddy bear. Speech assessment supported the results significantly displaying more happier expressions among children during the robotic expressions. Parents reported reduced levels of perceived pain among children.

Finally

The future of the automated robot seems bright with continued technological advancements. The machines will in future be used to enhance continued care. A recovering child will benefit from having a robot at home to support interaction further as well as monitor the child’s well being.

 




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