UMass Memorial’s newest source of comfort is a robot – Boston 25 News

WORCESTER, Mass. – It will not replace humans. It is no substitute for the comfort of a therapy dog. But UMass Memorial Health’s Children’s Medical Center has high hopes for its newest employee: Robin the Robot.

“Robin is an interactive robot that provides education, mind and tools for play as well as fun and music,” said Kendra Frederick, Director of the hospital’s Children’s Life Program. “My hope for Robin is to continue to create a fun and welcoming environment in pediatrics.”

“Fun” isn’t the first word many kids may associate with a pediatric hospital admission – and the staff know it.

“When the kids are here, they’re very nervous,” Frederick said. “They are worried about what is going to happen. There are so many new faces, so many devices. “

To be sure, Robin the Robot is more than just a hospital device.

Time magazine named the Armenian-developed robot one of its “Best Inventions of 2021 ″ – citing its ability to calm children in hospitals and clinics. After capturing that quote, UMass Memorial began planning to take Robin to the hospital. It was ultimately made possible by the institution’s innovation fund.

“Robin will be here for at least a year,” Frederick said. “We hope longer.”

Robin is equipped with software that predicts common children’s questions but, unlike some devices, which require constant name prompts (as in ‘Alexa’), the robot’s facial recognition allows Robin remembers names – albeit briefly. However, this allows authentic, albeit simple, interactions with children.

“It doesn’t replace contact,” says Frederick. “But it’s a tool that we can use in a small amount of time.”

And while Robin can ease loneliness and reduce fear – some research suggests deeper benefits are possible.

“Early research for Robot Robin really shows reduced hospital stays and increased compliance in medical settings for things like getting out of bed and taking medications,” says Frederick.

In other words, Robin can actually enhance healing.

Robin comes to UMass at a time when hospital isolation is more common – because of easily spread pathogens, such as COVID-19. Worcester Hospital is only the third child care facility with Robin in the US – and the first on the east coast.


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