MIT’s Huggable teddy bear brings wearable innovation to children’s healthcare

huggableThe last few years have seen many wearable devices emerge that monitor and report on various facets of our health.  One of the nicest of these projects however has to be Huggable, the teddy bear robot for sick children.

Huggable, which was developed by a team at MIT’s Media Lab, aims to provide support and comfort to children with chronic illnesses, all the while reporting on various vital signs to their doctors.

It’s common for children that experience prolonged periods in hospital to suffer from things such as anxiety and loneliness, with typically negative consequences for their treatment.

The comforting wearable

Huggable provides companionship for children when they’re in hospital, whilst also acting as a monitoring device for physicians and other members of the medical team.

The device, which is currently undergoing a clinical trial with 90 children, is capable of collecting data from the children via the Android enabled phone that is embedded inside the robot.

The developers believe it is capable of picking up a range of psychosomatic cues as to the emotions of the child.  For instance, the child may squeeze the bears hand whilst they receive an injection, or laugh at particular jokes.  The belief is that it will give the medics a better understanding of what makes the child happy or sad, excited or calm, tired or energized.

In the initial stage of the trial the bear will be put to the test alongside a regular teddy bear and a tablet based teddy bear.  All of the children will wear a device that measures physiological changes to see how they respond to the various devices.

A change in patient care

The team at MIT believe that Huggable could herald a shift in patient care, with technology capable of combining human connections with the latest technology to improve the emotional aspects of patient well-being.

The hope is that using Huggable will make stays in hospital more relaxing and enjoyable for children, which should have a strong knock-on effect to their care.

It’s a really nice project that is well worth keeping an eye on.  Whereas most wearable health innovations have thus far been confined to more personal environments, the Huggable device highlights how they can also be deployed in hospital settings.

Check out the video below for more information about Huggable.

 

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