Huggable: A social robot for pediatric care


Honey Goodenough

Honey Goodenough

The Huggable is a new type of robotic companion for health care, education, and social communication applications. The Huggable is much more than a fun, interactive robotic companion; it functions as an essential team member of a triadic interaction. Therefore, the Huggable is not meant to replace any particular person in a social network, but rather to enhance it.

Children and their parents may undergo challenging experiences when admitted for inpatient care at pediatric hospitals. While most hospitals make efforts to provide socio-emotional support for patients and their families during care, gaps still exist between human resource supply and demand. The Huggable project aims to close this gap by creating a social robot able to mitigate stress, anxiety, and pain in pediatric patients by engaging them in playful interactions. In collaboration with Boston Children's Hospital and Northeastern University, we ran an experimental study to compare the effects of the Huggable robot to a virtual character on a screen and a plush teddy bear. We demonstrated that children are more eager to emotionally connect with and be physically activated by a robot than a virtual character, illustrating the potential of social robots to provide socio-emotional support during inpatient pediatric care.