So often we face challenges in our field that demand to be overcome, many that people don’t realize. How do you plan treatment for an advanced stage of a disease? How can you work around a patient’s physical limitations to provide them the care that they need? The challenges aren’t always physical. In many cases the greatest challenges we face in the medical field are emotional ones. How can you help make a terminally ill child smile? How can you positively impact the last few months of her life?
We’ve come so far technologically in the past few decades, and more and more we’re starting to see these technology’s used as a solution to overcoming challenges like the ones listed above. We’re not just using medical technology to physically treat patients, we’re able to use it to help emotionally impact them as well.
That’s where Huggable comes in. He’s a robotic teddy bear created as part of the Simulator Program currently in use at Boston Children’s Hospital. The device, deemed a “high-tech puppet” by the NYT, can talk and play with young patients through a remote operator.
The goal: to—by studying the physiological changes present in children while interacting with Huggable—eventually devise a way for the bear to operate autonomously with patients, and to even change its communicative style based on what each patient needs. For example, some children might respond better to jokes, some may simply need a more affectionate and emotional approach, etc.
Huggable is a huge initiative, one that could go a long way towards improving pediatric care. The robot is invaluable, acting as a soothing distraction for young patients while also managing to capture valuable physiological data from them that can help improve patient care.
“We could someday see this as a standard of care, where every child who comes into the pediatric hospital might get something like this”, said Dr. Breazeal. It’s too early to tell whether or not the initiative will prove to be cost-effective, but we think the whole thing is awesome anyways.
Take a few minutes to watch the video. It’s pretty incredible!
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