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Growing demand of Social robots for hospitalized children

Social robots can benefit hospitalized children. A new study demonstrates, for the first time, that “social robots” used in support sessions held in pediatric units at hospitals can lead to more positive emotions in sick children.

A greater percentage of children and their parents reported that the children enjoyed playing with Huggable more than with the avatar or traditional teddy bear. Speech analysis backed up that result, detecting significantly more joyful expressions among the children during robotic interventions. Additionally, parents noted lower levels of perceived pain among their children.

The researchers noted that 93 percent of patients completed the Huggable-based interventions, and found few barriers to practical implementation, as determined by comments from the specialists.

A previous paper based on the same study found that the robot also seemed to facilitate greater family involvement in the interventions, compared to the other two methods, which improved the intervention overall. “Those are findings we didn’t necessarily expect in the beginning,” says Jeong, also a co-author on the previous paper. “We didn’t tell family to join any of the play sessions — it just happened naturally. When the robot came in, the child and robot and parents all interacted more, playing games or in introducing the robot.” (source)

The intervention was well received and appeared feasible, with 93% of those enrolled completing the study (with 80% complete parent data). Children exposed to the SR reported more positive affect relative to those who received a plush animal. SR interactions were characterized by greater levels of joyfulness and agreeableness than comparison interventions. Child life specialist stakeholders reported numerous potential benefits of SR technology in the pediatric setting.

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