Robot to soothe children during vaccinations

Children can shudder at the thought of visiting a doctor. The nervousness can reach its apex if the treatment involves needles.

Pediatricians’ clinics are invariably replete with toys and candies. Small prizes like stickers, lollipops are handed over to the children, read contestants, after the checkup is over. At times, this strategy works, at times, it doesn’t.

Interacts and Talks
Here is a product from the repertoire of ALDEBARAN Robtics in France that can make a child’s visit to the doctor fun. MEDi it is; a sociable, friendly robot, programmed to give children high fives, talk to them and even pick up toys for them.

Who would be thinking about the needle if MEDi was at the clinic’s reception? That’s precisely the objective. Get the kid engrossed, distract them and make them forget the needle.

“Getting poked with a needle is uncomfortable and is often associated with pain, so children usually arrive crying and literally kicking and screaming. Any distress a child experiences early on carries over into adulthood. We want to create a more positive vaccination experience for children now so they can have a better experience later on in life,” said Dr. Susan Kuhn, section chief of Infectious Diseases at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Tested Successfully
MEDi (short for Medicine and Engineering Designing Intelligence), also called Soother-Bot has already been tested by researchers of University of Calgary at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The results are really encouraging.

The researchers observed 57 children aged between four and nine at the time of vaccination.
Children who played and interacted with MEDi at the time of vaccination experienced less pain that their counterparts who were administered these shots in the absence of the humanoid robot.

“The robot was distracting the child during distress, but also giving instruction for how to cope,” Tanya Beran, a professor of community health sciences at the University of Calgary in Alberta said of the mechanism.

Both girls and boys tended to smile more and relaxed immediately after the vaccination when MEDi was present.

The control group, who had to brave the needle without MEDi’ being present were visibly upset, so much so that many of them refused to speak to their parents.

The pain-free needle, made so with the help of MEDi, is not cheap. Aldebaran Robotics has kept a hefty price tag of $15, 000 on MEDi.

The findings of the tests have been published in the journal Vaccine.