The following is an excerpt from The New Breed: What Our History With Animals Reveals About Our Future With Robots by Kate Darling.
The Huggable is a soft, fully animated blue teddy bear with a green nose that wrinkles in mischief and delight. The robot was developed by the MIT Media Lab’s Personal Robots Group. The researchers collaborated with Boston Children’s Hospital to bring the Huggable to pediatric patients and their families with the goal of mitigating the children’s stress, anxiety, and pain by engaging them in playful interactions. While pediatric doctors and nurses are fairly skilled in talking to children, using the (in this case remotely controlled) animated Huggable bear in tandem with a care provider contributed to a better social and emotional experience for the patients. That the presence of a robot can make children more comfortable talking to the doctors and nurses is no surprise. One of the benefits we’ve seen in animal-assisted therapy has been in giving patients a type of social support that humans can’t provide.