Calgary’s RxRobots won the Most Innovative Startup award at the recent Pediatrics 2040 conference in Laguna Niguel, California, for its MEDi robot which has been in use over the past four years at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
MEDi, a 23-inch tall, 11 pound humanoid robot, works as a pain coach by being cute, telling stories, dancing and singing songs while children undergo potentially painful medical procedures.
The robot, which has facial recognition and can speak a patient’s name, is credited for increasing vaccination rates by 10% because it comforts children during the procedure.
In providing comfort to children while receiving needles or undergoing other medical procedures, MEDi reduced children’s pain by 50%, according to a study published in the journal Vaccine.
The robot is already in use in several hospitals in the U.S., with one testimonial from Brenner Children’s Hospital in North Carolina demonstrating the robot’s talent for fascinating children and making them smile.
What’s striking about the interaction of children with the robot is that they refer to it as “he” or “she” rather than “it”.
RxRobots developed a robot arm in 2009 and put it on display at Telus World of Science. The robot was programmed to pick up several blocks and then “accidentally” drop the last one.
Children interacted with the robot by helping it pick up the dropped block, talking to it, telling it to try again, and generally assigning a personality to it.
Programmed by RxRobots using cognitive and behavioural-based research, MEDi takes that empathetic reaction a step further, greeting patients using their name and generally helping them cope with the trauma of being hospitalized.