Huggable, the Robot Bear who Connects Emotionally with Childhood Cancer Patients

kids cant fight cancer alone

Children with Cancer fight a battle that they should not have to, and most of them are strong Little Fighters who never REALLY show how they are feeling about what they are going through.

Many of these amazing children try to stay strong for their families and their friends; being strong on the outside but suffering terribly on the inside in ways that their  families and support group can see, but are powerless to do anything about.

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. [Source: Medscape]

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. 

Approximately 20% of Children with Cancer are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and many more suffer from various emotional problems in school, in relationships, and beyond, even long AFTER they beat cancer.


Huggable is a blue and green robot teddy bear specifically designed and developed by Dr Cynthia Breazeal and her team at the MIT Media Lab to emotionally connect with and relieve pain and anxiety for children who are hospitalised for extended periods in ICU, or for cancer treatment. It has a cute kids voice that appeals to children with cancer and makes the feel at ease with it.

Huggable is one of a growing group of therapeutic robots being designed globally, and operates on an Android app that can signal emotions in its movement and can tell when you’re touching it.

Huggable is currently part of a pilot study at Boston Children’s Hospital to evaluate whether the robot can help relieve children’s anxiety in the hospital. It is being operated by an expert Child Life Specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Under the pilot study, the young patients interact with Huggable in their rooms. They shake his paw, tell him jokes (he claims to not know any), and play I Spy with him.

Watching this video, one tends to marvel not so much at the little guy’s movements, though they are certainly adorable, but at his smarts. Huggable refers to others in the room by name, and makes clever guesses when Aurora, the patient, tells him she spies something blue (hint, it’s not him). Turns out, his behaviours and conversation are controlled by a so-called Wizard-of-Oz operator on a nearby laptop. You can read about the study design here. [Source:]

Huggable Robot Befriends Girl in Hospital Video

Thanks to:
Personal Robots Group: M.I.T. Media Lab
Dan Stiehl
Kris Dos Santos
Luke Plummer
Sooyeon Jeong
Dr. Cynthia Breazeal
Boston Children’s Hospital research team :
Dr. Deirdre Logan
Suzanne Graca
Laurel Anderson
Honey Goodenough
Brianna O’Connell
Nicole Stenquist
Dr. Peter Weinstock

The Little Fighters Cancer Trust loves this idea and sincerely hopes that Huggable will enter the market soon and that it will also be available to our Little Fighters in South Africa, as they really would benefit from this little bear.

MIT we Salute You

soldier saluting


About LFCT

This is a blog about CHILDHOOD CANCER and CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS Little Fighters Cancer Trust is a non-profit organisation that offers support and aid to Children with Cancer and their families. When a child is diagnosed with cancer it affects the whole family. One of the parents, usually the mother, must give up their job to care for the child and this creates financial problems for the family. In South Africa especially the majority of these families are not well-to-do; many of them are rural. A diagnosis of cancer can wipe out any family’s finances, let alone a poor family. The costs of special medications, special diets, hospital stays, transport to and from the hospital or clinic and accommodation and food costs for the mother who spends most of the time at her child’s bedside are astronomical. These are the people and problems that fall through the cracks, and these are the people that Little Fighters Cancer Trust has pledged to help in any way possible. LFCT takes a holistic approach to assisting the Children with Cancer and their Families, with the main aim to be the preservation of individual dignity and pride. Little Fighters Cancer Trust also focuses on promotion and advocacy of National Childhood Cancer Awareness in an effort to increase awareness of Early Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer. This would result in earlier diagnosis, giving the Child with Cancer more of a chance at Treatment and Survival. See "About" for more Background info

Posted on 26 June, 2015, in Blog, Research, Videos and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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