A robot whose sole purpose is to connect emotionally with cancer patients. It's working, too.
Even the nurses were a little skeptical at first, but when Huggable started doing its job...
America, meet your robot overlord.
Its name is Huggable.
Huggable is the MIT-created robot with a crazy kid voice that hangs out in pediatric cancer wards.
Huggable operates on an Android app. Yep! That's a phone inside its head. It can signal emotions in its movement. It can tell when you're touching it. Eventually, its hand will be able to sense pressure. If you squeeze its hand, technically Huggable could sense your pain.
NOT SO FAST, MR. HAWKING
"Huggable's purpose is to interact on an emotional level with children."
— Luke Plummer, MIT robotics engineer
Huggable is so emotionally supportive, it will gleefully listen to dad jokes.
AND LOVE IT.
What do eggs do for fun? Kara-YOLK-e! Get it?!
Yes, that just happened.
"Why do these kids with cancer need a teddy bear?!?" — something a very dark part of my inner monologue just said to me.
Well, here's the thing.
Kids with cancer UNDERREPORT how traumatized they are by having cancer.
From Medscape (emphasis mine):
The stress of treatment could cause a range of chronic problems, from phobia and anxiety for minor medical procedures, such as blood taking, to panic attack under difficult conditions. This view is further supported by studies focused on stress in children during the treatment for cancer.
On the contrary, other studies suggest that even though the nursing and medical staff perceive more patient distress, the self-reported anxiety in children with cancer is low.
Around 20% of childhood cancer sufferers are diagnosed with PTSD.
And many more suffer from emotional problems in school, in relationships, and beyond AFTER they beat cancer. AFTER they fight the hardest battle humans fight — the battle of beating a disease that's trying to kill you.
Children's cancer wards are full of amazing kids being strong for their families but really suffering on the inside.
They're suffering in ways their families and supporters can see but can't help.
Maybe when you were young, you'd tell your secrets to your teddy bear, like mine named Fish. This is like that but SO. MUCH. MORE. POWERFUL.
Huggable the robot is a teddy bear that supports kids in ways grown-up humans just haven't been able to.
Angelic pediatric cancer nurses, what do YOU think?
MR. HAWKING, YOU WERE RIGHT!
So, are robots the end of the human race?
I don't think so. In the form of bots like Huggable, robots are the beginning of something much more positive. They're the beginning of a whole new era of medical advancements that don't alienate us from each other, but bring us closer by teaching us more about ourselves.
Nurses, family, and support systems are so important to cancer patients. But just like the X-ray helped human doctors treat disease, a robot like Huggable will help those human doctors treat the very serious emotional and psychological damage caused by cancer.
This lil' robot named Huggable is good for us humans.
More hospitals and medical providers need to know about the emotional suffering these strong kids are going through.
I'm sharing this in the hopes that some families out there can use this info to get better care for their kids.