While the idea of humanoid robots might make many of us feel quite uneasy, they may actually help reduce pain and distress experienced by children during vaccination, a study published in Vaccine has shown.
While studies have shown that up to half of young children experience severe distress and anxiety related to vaccines, the researchers hypothesised that because many children in the US are already familiar with technologically advanced devices, a child-robot interaction during vaccination might help relax the child and alleviate distress.
In one arm of a randomized controlled trial at Alberta Children's Hospital, the humanoid robot – named MEDi – interacted with the child using cognitive-behavioural strategies while it was a nurse that actually administered the vaccine. Compared to standard procedure, interaction with a robot during flu vaccination resulted in significantly less pain and distress in children.
MEDi, or Medicine and Engineering Designing Intelligence, can interact with children in many ways, including walking, dancing, talking, playing games, making eye contact and giving high-fives.
"From our earlier research, we found that children are curious, imaginative and receptive to interacting with a robot," says lead investigator Tanya Beran, PhD, of the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine.. "They may see it as an extension of themselves or they may see the robot as a companion and even a friend."
If you want to know more about strategy and innovation in vaccines, you might be interested in attending the World Vaccine Congress Europe 2013, 16-17 October 2013, Lille.