Robots are an intriguing technology that can straddle both the physical and social world of people. Inspired by animal and human behavior, MIT’s robotic team’s goal is to build capable robotic creatures with a “living” presence, and to gain a better understanding of how humans will interact with this new kind of technology. People will physically interact with them, communicate with them, understand them, and teach them, all in familiar human terms. Ultimately, such robots will possess the social savvy, physical adeptness, and everyday common sense to partake in people’s daily lives in useful and rewarding ways.
The Personal Robots Group focuses on developing the principles, techniques, and technologies for personal robots. Dr. Cynthia Breazeal and her students conduct research that advances the state-of-the-art in socially intelligent robot partners that interact with humans to promote social and intellectual benefits, work alongside with humans as peers, learn from people as apprentices, and foster more engaging interaction between people. More recent work investigates the impact of long-term, personalized Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) applied to quality of life, health, creativity, communication, and educational goals. The ability of these robot systems to naturally interact, learn from, and effectively cooperate with people has been evaluated in numerous human subjects experiments, both inside the lab and in real-world environments.Children and their parents may undergo challenging experiences when admitted for inpatient care at pediatric hospitals.
While most hospitals make efforts to provide socio-emotional support for patients and their families during care, gaps still exist between human resource supply and demand. The Huggable project aims to close this gap by creating a social robot able to mitigate stress, anxiety, and pain in pediatric patients by engaging them in playful interactions.
In collaboration with Boston Children’s Hospital and Northeastern University, MIT robotics team is currently running an experimental study to compare the effects of the Huggable robot to a virtual character on a screen and a plush teddy bear.
team demonstrated preliminarily that children are more eager to emotionally connect with and be physically activated by a robot than a virtual character, illustrating the potential of social robots to provide socio-emotional support during inpatient pediatric care.