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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...

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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!

Wait...

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.


boop!

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.

<3

I live in Washington, the state with the first official outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. While my family lives several hours from Seattle, it was alarming to be near the epicenter—especially early in the pandemic when we knew even less about the coronavirus than we know now.

As tracking websites went up and statistics started pouring in, things looked hairy for Washington. But not for long. We could have and should have shut everything down faster than we did, but Governor Inslee took the necessary steps to keep the virus from flying completely out of control. He's consistently gotten heat from all sides, but in general he listened to the infectious disease experts and followed the lead of public health officials—which is exactly what government needs to do in a pandemic.

As a result, we've spent the past several months watching Washington state drop from the #1 hotspot down to 23rd in the nation (as of today) for total coronavirus cases. In cases per million population, we're faring even better at number 38. We have a few counties where outbreaks are pretty bad, and cases have slowly started to rise as the state has reopened—which was to be expected—but I've felt quite satisfied with how it's been handled at the state level. The combination of strong state leadership and county-by-county reopenings has born statistically impressive results—especially considering the fact that we didn't have the lead time that other states did to prepare for the outbreak.

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