Robot dog eyed to soothe hospital kids
TOKYO – The “aibo” robot dog is being used in research at the National Center for Child Health and Development in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, to see how much it can comfort children who have been hospitalized for long periods.
“I hurt all the time. I can’t play with my friends.” “I can’t try anymore.” The longer they are hospitalized, the more children feel this kind of stress and anxiety.
Therefore, the center emphasizes providing the children with emotional support. To that end, the center has asked for the cooperation of Sony Corp., which manufactures the aibo, on the new project.
The research started this month. It analyzes substances in children’s saliva, blood and urine to examine such questions as whether playing with an aibo can decrease their stress levels and increase their feelings of happiness.
The robot dog is equipped with a camera and microphone, and these functions are used to analyze children’s expressions and voices.
The robot dog “listens to me. It’s so cute,” said Chisako Matsuura, 10, with a smile while gently stroking the robot. Matsuura has been repeatedly hospitalized over the past five years.
The research will continue until March 2021.
“It’s becoming more clear that communicating with animals can improve patients’ quality of life,” said Kyoko Tanaka, who is in charge of the research at the center. “I want to confirm whether playing with the aibo can help reduce children’s stress levels and increase emotional stability.”
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