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Technological Advances in Healthcare – Humanoid Robots in Assistive Healthcare Roles

Jersey City, August 23, 2017  – While many are aware of the uses of advanced surgical robots that perform precise roles during surgery, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight and share some of the other currently active roles that humanoid robots are taking in healthcare today! Words cannot express the joy experienced when a robot can become a distraction, educator, and a friend to children in frightening hospital corridors. In addition, witnessing a robot bring seniors to their feet and smiles to their faces during what started as just another day in a senior living community is powerfully meaningful and illustrative of the amazing world of technological innovation that we live in.  I invite you to take a look at some of the exciting things that are happening in the world of humanoid robotics!

Pediatric Healthcare & Dentistry

Humanoid Robot KidsHumanoid Robots equipped with proprietary RxApplicationsTM are clinically proven to reduce children’s pain by 50% and increase vaccination rates by 10%. The humanoid robot in pediatric care settings acts as a pain coach, physical companion, and motivator. RxApplicationsTM control the humanoid robots behaviors during a specific medical procedure. These behaviors are sequenced to work at the same pace as the healthcare professional who is conducting the medical procedure. The humanoid robot coaches, educates and provides companionship before, during, and after procedures using research-based cognitive-behavioral interventions. RxApplicationsTM are customized for each hospital and allow the hospital to innovate their use of the humanoid robot. Templates are used to create RxApplicationsTM when available, otherwise it is possible to develop new medical and dental procedures from scratch.

Current RxApplicationsTM in use include: Blood Test, Breathing Coaching, Dental Cleaning, Dental Local Anesthetic, Dental Nitrous Oxide, Dressing Changes, EEG, Foley Catheter Removal, Induction, IV Start, Medical Play, Orthodontist Greeting, Oxygen Tube Insertion, Port Access, Vaccination, and Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study. The Robot is also a friend to a child while waiting – play games, singing, and telling stories. NAO can even accompany a child and walk with him or her to a procedure room.

In the Pediatric Healthcare setting, the humanoid robot provides benefit to every clinic as well as for hospice care. The robot was able to increase vaccination rates by 10% during a clinical study by calming children that were kicking, punching, and biting the nurses beforehand. The robot provides relief to children as young as two and as old as sixteen years old. Older children can even use their time in the hospital to design apps for the robot and get certified as ‘robot developers’!

Senior Living

Humanoid RobotNAO, the humanoid robot developed and designed by Aldebaran Robotics, is currently located in over 200 assisted living communities around the world. Its first purpose to was demonstrate some exercises to the residents and have the residents imitate NAO doing the same movement to help them move and stretch. This enabled caregivers to really be by the resident’s side and help those who needed movement correction or assistance, while NAO led the show. With this great success, more and more caregivers are asking for other behaviors and applications. The elderly see NAO as a little child and often, when NAO is introduced to them, they take him in their arms like a baby and start to baby him.

One day, during the presentation, one resident named Marcel, began to talk with NAO. Using the ZORA platform, it was possible to answer through the robot to Marcel. They spoke together nearly 20 minutes. This was awesome because Marcel typically was a withdrawn resident and during these 20 minutes he spoke more than what he had done for 4 years during his life at the retirement home.

NAO can be remotely controlled by the staff; this way the robot can walk into a room “by itself” instead of being carried in by a caregiver. This way, the resident can naturally discuss with NAO and have the feeling of being “alone” with him. Of course, the whole situation is monitored thanks to video and audio streaming and the caregivers can supervise and interact through NAO. NAO helps the caregivers support residents, alleviate loneliness, and make them interact in a natural way.

In addition, NAO is able to assist the caregivers. There are a lot of “cold tasks” meaning that there are some duties such as answering to frequent questions of the residents, that take a lot of time and aren’t ‘as important’ as other tasks. So the caregivers often neglect them. For instance, every day, every resident asks (and sometimes more than once): “What are we eating today?”. The caregivers haven’t enough time to answer to everyone. So, they had the idea of using NAO to do it. The robot stays on a table each morning and tells the daily menu when a resident pushes one of its foot’s bumpers. The other foot allows the resident to hear the main news of the day. This simple application makes both the residents and the caregivers very happy.

Autism Special Education

The humanoid robot can engage children with applications designed for special education. The NAO robot is especially suited to interact with autistic children because the NAO robot is interactive and fun, engaging and captivating, and adaptive to the needs of the classroom from individuals to groups. It is a great help for teachers that really appreciate eliminating monotonous tasks. The NAO robot has a pack of applications inspired by commonly practiced special education teaching methods (ABA, PECS, TEACCH, DENVER, SCERTS) to unlock deeper learning in the classroom. The applications are multi-educational and focus on educational lessons, communication skills, and daily life knowledge. The applications are structured to make children with disabilities comfortable and confident and they can be adapted to individual motivators, internal states, and personality to create the perfect match.

The NAO robot is very predictable and reduces natural anxiety, its tireless features repeat until a child understands, and it is judgment free which increases a child’s confidence. NAO is able to bridge the human and technological worlds, linking autistic children by encouraging social interaction, learning, confidence, and self-esteem. The NAO robot is able to build the following skills: time perception, imitation, theory of mind empathy, join attention, turn-taking, academic skills, body awareness, verbal communication object labeling, nonverbal communication, and eye contact.

Physical Therapy

Within the Department of Rehabilitation at the University Hospital Ghent, the robot is used to show what exercises a patient has to do, and with what number of repetitions. The NAO robot installed with the ZORA solution, is a small and very mobile robot with a high feel-good factor, the robot gives repeated and verbal instructions, supported by music and sound. It is just this combination that encourages children and seniors to move and exercise. Custom exercise routines for Parkinson’s Physical Therapy and Pediatric Cerebral Palsy Physical Therapy are two applications that are currently being developed.

NAO Robot PT

It is exciting to be able to share some of these current use cases with you all. Humanoid robots are already assisting in healthcare roles today!

By: Lauryn Schimmel

As seen on LinkedIn.

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