Boston Children’s Hospital and M.I.T. have recently collaborated to create a robotic teddy bear capable of revolutionizing the face of children’s toys and pediatric care. It's called "Huggable," a “high-tech puppet” capable of interacting with sick children through play and speech with a simple remote control. Huggable is currently part of a developing program with 90 children at Boston Children’s Hospital, and his future looks bright.
According to Dr. Peter Weinstock, director of the children's training program, an increase in the levels of happiness in children has a big effect on healing, and thus inventors hope that the reassuring presence of an interactive teddy bear will help “alleviate anxiety, pain, and isolation for children in a hospital.”
“We think a lot about heart rate, blood pressure, and how much oxygen is in the blood, but we don’t have a great monitor for how the child is feeling right now,” said Weinstock. Huggable is intended to “adapt to changing situations and emotional scenarios” to help children feel better faster.
At this point, the hospital has invested a half million dollars in social robotics research, which includes the Huggable program. Children in the study are closely monitored for physiological changes to determine whether or not Huggable is working as expected. Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, leader of the personal robots group at M.I.T.’s Media Lab, believes if all goes well, this could someday become a standard of care. “It’s not only the health and emotional and recovery benefits, but also logistical and financial, improving efficiency to the overall health system,” she said. When this loveable bear will actually be hitting the shelves, or hospital beds, is still in question.
[h/t: New York Times]