But Belgian scientists apparently think that’s the way to go.
In order to help comfort sick children in Belgian hospitals, scientists have created a prototype robot with a long green nose that purrs when petted or hugged and says “ouch” when punched or hit. Dubbed Probo (as in proboscis), the robot has a touchscreen on his belly to explain to children the details of their impending medical procedures. His facial expressions are designed to change to intimate how the procedures will make the kids feel.
It sounds like an interesting idea, although Probo can’t hug the kids back – which is why clowns (excuse me, I know some of you are freaked by them) and other visiting dressed up characters generally do a much better job of comforting kids. They’re comfy!
The one advantage I do see in a robot is his lack of emotion when it comes to dealing with sick kids. Where adults explaining a medical procedure to a child – even trained medical procedures – can’t help but react to the child’s emotion, a robot is going to keep it nice and steady and just keep talking the kids through everything.
Still not sure I want a guy who looks like a cross between Horton the elephant and the incredible Hulk wandering around the pediatric ward (no, not scary at all, uh uh), but hey, they say they’re still working on him. Maybe they can change out that nose. Get a look at pictures of him over at Reuters.