NEW YORK — Kids like robots. And sick kids can benefit from robots in the hospital. A robot companion named Robin has been tested in a pediatric clinic in Armenia, and researchers report an increase in young patients’ appetites and cheerfulness after interactions with the robot. Robin is due to comfort kids at a U.S. dental clinic starting in July, Forbes writes.
“We aim to change kid’s perception of medical treatments, where they will no longer feel isolated, lonely and scared,” says Karen Khachikyan, CEO and founder of Expper Technologies.
Robin is 47 inches tall and made of recyclable bioplastic which can easily be sterilized with ultraviolet light or other disinfectants to minimize the risk of spreading viruses.
“It is the first of its kind that uses peer-to-peer interaction in order to help children overcome stress and anxiety,” the CEO says. “Robin utilized our AI-based patent-pending technology to build peer-to-peer emotional interactions with children.”
The technology analyzes facial expressions and the context of conversations. It moves with an omni-directional wheel system and uses its “face” to display emotion with a variety of expressions. This all means the robot can react naturally to situations and interactions with children, its creator says.
As for the “making kids feel better” factor, Expper says a two-month pilot study involving more than 100 kids at Wigmore Clinic, Nork Marash Hospital and Avanta Clinics (all in Armenia), collected behavioral, observational and procedure data, along with information on stress and pain levels in young patients.
“All the kids who have once interacted with Robin have shown interest in meeting it again. There were cases of improved appetite and an increase in cheerfulness after interactions with Robin,” he says.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, children are much more isolated at hospitals. Visitations are limited, along with interactions by medical staff.
“Hospitals are looking for solutions to help children cope with isolation, loneliness, and stress,” the CEO says. “As Robin has already proven its effectiveness in reducing stress and anxiety and supporting kids, hospitals can now provide better emotional support to the children without any direct human contact. Besides, Robin is there for children 24/7 to support any time.”
Khachikyan says the technology allows Robin to behave like a peer. He can play interactive games, tell funny stories and jokes … and explain complicated (and scary) medical procedures in simple ways.
Robin will be rolling around at ABC Kids Dental Group in Los Angeles, California, followed by UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, Expper says.
Expper has to a goal to deploy Robin in major hospitals and dental clinics in California this year, allowing the locations to use Robin for a monthly subscription fee.
“Partnering with UNDP, we are planning to deploy Robin in public hospitals in Armenia,” Khachikyan says. “This collaboration can impact thousands of children yearly bringing comfort and joy to them during the daunting process of hospitalization. We are planning to launch the project within a few months.”