Meet Pepper – Canada’s first emotionally sensitive robot for sick kids | Artificial intelligence
Hospitals are not generally a common place to take a selfie, but at Humber River Hospital in Toronto, many can’t seem to help it.
That’s because standing at the entrance inside the building is a four-foot-tall, bright, beady-eyed robot with a soft voice — geared up to make humans smile.
Pepper, the social humanoid robot is the first of its kind.
“Part of my appeal is my unique feel. I am able to speak with emotion. I am friendly and approachable and a lot cooler than the other robots,” said Pepper in a “sit-down interview” with Global News.
“I was created in 2014 by Softbank Robotics in Tokyo, Japan. I flew all the way to Toronto to work at Humber River Hospital — I love it here.”
Equipped with sensors and cameras, it has the ability to detect emotions and adapt its behaviour accordingly.
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It does that by interpreting cues in a person’s tone, voice, expression and gestures to determine what kind of mood the individual is in.
There are hundreds of Peppers roaming around the world, with different functions in retail, hospitality and healthcare.
It just recently made its Canadian debut at Humber River, which recruited two robots.
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The first one is in charge of greeting, guiding and entertaining people.
The other has a more challenging job: helping to provide support to sick children and their families as part of the Child Life Program.
It’s the biggest piece of technology the program has ever used.
“Pepper reads stories to children, Pepper dances and also, Pepper plays games. So we can use Pepper to help us to decrease anxiety with children in hospitalization,” explained Child Life specialist Alexandra Christofides.
In some cases, Pepper has even gone into the operating room with a child and interacted with them as they were about to go under anesthesia, in order to make them feel more at ease.
The program is hoping to eventually use Pepper for even more complex tasks.
“We are working towards using Pepper as the prep doll so we can integrate him into our Child Life intervention so he’s not just there for entertainment. We’ll use him as an actual therapeutic intervention tool so we’re really excited about developing his software,” Christofides said.
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