Boston, MA — Ok, maybe Huggable is more than an app. He’s really a social robot prototype. And, a teddy bear. He’s blue. But, he’s designed to make his friends feel less blue with interactions designed to alleviate anxiety, pain and isolation for children in a hospital.
Right off, he’ll totally remind you of the touchable, huggable therapeutic robot Baymax, but he’s much more Wizard of Oz than Big Hero 6. All his behaviors and conversation are controlled by an operator on a nearby laptop.
Dr. Peter Weinstock, the director of the Simulator Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and Cynthia Breazeal, the director of the personal robots group at MIT.’s Media Lab are teamed up in a trial of Huggable’s impact on the “fourth vital sign”: children’s emotional health. All the children are recorded on video and wear a bracelet, called a Q Sensor, that measures physiological changes.
For the kids themselves, the interactions with Huggable are just about having fun and making enduring long hospital stays a little easier. He plays iSpy, asks them to tell him jokes and gets every nuance of the interactions just right thanks to that operator behind the curtain. The result of the 90-person study will tell us if a robot can help humanize healthcare.