This is the fourth episode in a Bits video series, called Robotica, examining how robots are poised to change the way we do business and conduct our daily lives. 

Can a robotic teddy bear help alleviate anxiety, pain and isolation for children in a hospital?

That is the hope of Dr. Peter Weinstock, the director of a training program at Boston Children’s Hospital called the Simulator Program, and Cynthia Breazeal, the director of the personal robots group at M.I.T.’s Media Lab. The two have collaborated to bring Huggable, a social robot prototype developed at the lab, into the hospital, which is financing a 90-person study to determine whether the robot can have therapeutic value for children who have to endure long hospital stays.

The device, essentially a high-tech puppet, can talk and play with patients with the aid of a remote operator. For the continuing study, one-third of the children play with Huggable, another third interact with an image of it on a tablet and the rest are given a regular plush teddy bear. All the children are recorded on video and wear a bracelet, called a Q Sensor, that measures physiological changes.

The hospital is beginning to collect and analyze the data with the help of researchers from Northeastern University.

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