Soothing robot in the doctor’s office

Going to the doctor can be a scary trip for children.  But a robot named MEDI can make the visit a little bit easier and less frightening.  Short for Medicine and Engineering Designing Intelligence, MEDI stays with the child through medical procedures, talking to them in one of 20 languages and offering soothing advice to get them through the visit.

Equipped with multiple cameras, facial recognition technology and the ability to speak directly to the little patients, MEDI is the product of Tanya Beran, a professor of community health sciences at the University of Calgary in Alberta.  Her team began developing MEDI three years ago and conducted a study of 57 children.  According to Yahoo Tech, “Each was randomly assigned a vaccination session with a nurse, who used the same standard procedures to dispense the medication. In some of those sessions, MEDi used cognitive-behavioral strategies to assuage the children as they got the shot. Afterward, children, parents, and nurses filled out surveys to estimate the pain and distress of the whole shebang.”

The result was that the kids who had MEDI by their side during the procedure reported less pain. Since that study, MEDI is being programmed for more serious procedures, such as chemotherapy to blood transfers to surgery.

Why it’s hot

Robotic technology is starting to come together with practical applications for people.  With motion, voice, the ability to recognize humans and interact with logical language patterns, MEDI is a natural step along the way to fully interactive robots, possibly even artificial intelligence.

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