As part of their documentary series called | Robotica | The New York Times looks at en experimental concept underway at Boston Children’s Hospital. The project involves a robotic teddy bear called Huggable and has been developed by Dr. Peter Weinstock, director of the Simulator Program at the hospital, and Cynthia Breazeal, director of the personal robots group at M.I.T.'s Media Lab.
They've been testing the robot on subjects at the hospital to see if it can help children who have to stay there for long periods of time. The device is controlled remotely and interacts with the kids, talking and playing with them.
In the video above Beatrice Lipp, a patient at Boston Children’s Hospital, one of the children selected to interact with the robotic device meets her own personal Huggable, her new robotic teddy bear friend.
Deirdre Logan, resident pediatric psychologist at Boston Children's Hospital tells the The New York Times, "Children have incredible imaginations which means they can really suspend disbelief, and there can be a true relationship that develops between Huggable and a patient."
Their responses are recorded and any physiological changes are measured using a sensor which they wear as a bracelet. It might sound weird and, sure, a little creepy (to adults at least) but Dr. Weinstock notes that, if it can have an influence on a child's happiness, that's something which can greatly aide the healing process.
“We could someday see this as a standard of care, where every child who comes into the pediatric hospital might get something like this," Dr. Breazeal told The New York Times. “It’s not only the health and emotional and recovery benefits, but also logistical and financial, improving efficiency to the overall health system.”
Time for bed. What Huggable looks like without it's clothes on.