Hospitals are never fun for children, and we’ve seen a number of initiatives to help keep them calm, from musical dentist drills to interactive LED walls. Now the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Canada has introduced MEDi, a robot that distracts kids from uncomfortable medical examinations and procedures, and even aids their recovery.
Based on Aldebaran Robotics‘ NAO machine, the robot is a humanoid that interacts with children in a variety of ways, designed to take their mind off painful flu shots or check ups. The robot greets children, asks them for a high five, asks them questions about their favorite movies and games and plays music they request. It also gets them engaged in a simple activity such as arranging toys on a table in front of them. During tests carried out at the hospital by researches at the University of Calgary, which included a group of children aged four to nine who had previously reacted badly to needles, MEDi asked them to clear some dust from a toy duck on the table by blowing on it. The kids were distracted by the activity, and the gesture is known to relax muscles, making injections less painful. The upshot was that those children reacted less violently to the procedure, experienced less pain and even recovered more quickly. At the same time, parents also felt more relaxed.