A robot call Robin has been making life a little bit better for children and staff at an American hospital.

In a new UCLA study, Robin was shown to improve the mood of young patients, as well as the medical interactions for hospitalised children. Standing at 4 feet tall this friendly social companion robot, remotely controlled by humans, is able to ‘move, talk and play with others’. 

During trials specialists in the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital’s Chase Child Life Program gave children 60 minutes with Robin before interviewing kids and their parents on how the experience differed from time with a tablet – to find any recurring themes. 

We saw the positive effect in children, their families and healthcare workers.

Justin Wagner

The results showed that 90% of parents said they were ‘extremely likely’ to ask for access to Robin again after seeing the impact it had on their children, with kids saying they experienced a 29% increase in positive affect, and a 33% drop in negative affect. Using the tablet, the patients reported a 43% decrease in positive affect and a 33% decrease in negative affect.

The many benefits reported by the child life specialists who oversaw the study included: ‘a greater display of intimacy and interactivity during play, increased control over their hospital experience and the formation of a new, trusting friendship’.

“Our team has demonstrated that a social companion robot can go beyond video chats on a tablet to give us a more imaginative and profound way to make the hospital less stressful,” said Justin Wagner, MD, a pediatric surgeon at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital and senior author of the study. “As the pandemic continues, our patients are still feeling anxious and vulnerable in a variety of ways, so it’s critical that we be as creative as possible to make their experiences easier when they need our help.”

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