Robotic teddy bears try to bring joy to kids in hospitals

Robotic teddy bears try to bring joy to kids in hospitals
Image credit: Flickr (CC) / Christiaan Triebert

Staying in a hospital can be very traumatic and unpleasant for kids. This is why often stuffed animals come to help out and bring some joy.

So, now there’s a new experiment in development which features robotic teddy bears in hospitals, Reuters reports. It aims to find out whether these robotic teddy bears improve the experience for kids in hospitals.

The experiment features 54 kids in hospitals ages 3 to 10. They randomly got one of three toys – a tablet with an interactive teddy bear avatar, a classic teddy bear and the interactive robotic teddy bear.

Monitoring and questioning the kids afterwards showed that they appear more joyful when they play with the interactive teddy bears. Furthermore, parents say their children said they had less pain when playing with the robotic teddy bears.

“We think that kids who received the interactive robot bear found it easier and more fun to connect with compared to the traditional teddy bear, and they may have felt better ‘understood’ by a bear who felt both physically present and able to respond to their words and emotions directly,” said Deirdre Logan, director of psychology services in pain medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and lead author of the study.

There was always a human touch to the experiment as the robots and avatar were controlled by humans in real time. They could respond to what the kids say and how they play. Nothing else was changed about the hospital treatment, way of work and so on.

The survey shows potential that interactive toys and technologies can help pediatrics. All of this though is still in its early days, so there’s a lot more work to be done.