Embodied piloting Moxie companion with pediatric patients

The Moxie companion robot. Credit: Embodied

Embodied, a 2021 RBR50 Robotics Innovation Award winner, will pilot its Moxie companion robot with the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and Golisano Children’s Hospital (GCH). Launched in 2020, the robot uses machine learning to help promote social, emotional and cognitive development in children through play-based learning.

This will be the first study of Moxie’s feasibility and efficacy in a hospital setting. The goal of the pilot, which will kick of in November 2021, is to develop clinical applications for Moxie in pediatric care. The pilot consists of two phases. Working with the University of Rochester Health Lab, the initial study will test if the use of Moxie by children and staff is feasible in a pediatric hospital setting. The second phase will focus on the efficacy of helping diabetic children with their care plan.

The robot hopes to facilitate fun, engaging education to patients regarding their new diagnosis, and to reinforce gamified coping strategies that can be maintained after discharge. The goal is for Moxie to increase treatment tolerance and adherence, reduce distress, and improve long-term health outcomes among these newly diagnosed children. The research could expand into other areas, including reducing the need for sedation for procedures like MRI scans to coping with pain and stress pre-and-post-operation.

“Our vision for Moxie has always been to redefine the way machines interact with humans through fluid conversation and technology that positively impacts our everyday lives,” said Paolo Pirjanian, CEO and founder of Embodied. “That’s why we’re excited to partner with the University of Rochester Medical Center and Golisano Children’s Hospital to pilot Moxie for pediatric patients. Medical treatment can be overwhelming and stressful for children. This partnership will allow us to better understand how Moxie can help enhance their experience in a hospital setting.”

Embodied and URMC first connected through KidsX, one of the world’s largest pediatric-focused digital health accelerators, for a 13-week virtual program.

“We are very excited to be partnering with the innovative team at Embodied by bringing Moxie to our patients at Golisano Children’s Hospital,” said Heather Reyes, M.D., M.Eng., Assistant Professor for the Department of Pediatrics and Critical Care. “This is an opportunity to use technology to meet children at their own level and we hope to bridge some of the barriers to our patients and their families accessing the best quality care we can offer.”

Embodied won an RBR50 Award for Moxie earlier in 2021. There have been other attempts at developing social robots for children, many of them little more than advanced, consumer-class toys. But a few like Moxie were designed specifically to promote social engagement and cognitive development. These systems largely failed to find a commercial footing. Moxie has already had more commercial success than most previous attempts.

Pirjanian was the second-ever guest on The Robot Report Podcast. A lot has changed since his appearance on the show in June 2020, but he talked about the technical and business challenges involved with developing a companion robot, including creating seamless human-robot interaction for children, content creation for Moxie, and raising funding after several social robotics companies failed. Paolo also discussed launching Moxie during the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision to not give Moxie wheels, and much more. You can listen to that interview below.

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