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Focal Meditech participates in the development of a robot companion for children treated for cancer

Children treated for cancer in a hospital often experience high levels of stress and anxiety. Not only are they faced with a life-threatening disease, they also find themselves in a strange environment, surrounded by doctors, nurses and other medical personnel. Moreover, during various types of treatment, close family may not be in close proximity, e.g., due to exposure risks in case of radiation treatment, or simply because parents cannot guarantee 24/7 presence.

In an joint program the Foundation STW and the Dutch Cancer Society recently granted a four year project for the development of a robot companion for children with cancer. This project unites and advances the state-of-the-art in automated human-robot interaction design and machine learning to provide children with a humanoid robot companion that is capable of being there when humans cannot and that can address a child’s distress, pain and fear to minimize medical traumatic stress. This is of key importance, e.g., to ensure successful, uneventful treatment, to lower risks associated with involving relatives and clinicians (e.g., radiation exposure), and to reduce significant adverse psychological reactions (e.g., posttraumatic stress) to the entire experience.

Focal is business partner in this project ‘Robot companion for children if parents cannot be there’. Focal’s contribution is in the domain of communication and interaction, and based on our knowledge of Augmentative and Alternative Communication, AAC. Besides Focal will bring in its experiences in actual application of present social robotics and its knowledge and capacities in robotics development and production.


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