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This Robot Can Help Kids Through Chemo, Vaccinations & Other Scary Medical Procedures

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 4.54.33 PMRobots are helping us do a lot these days but as an adult who had far too many needle experiences in her childhood, I’m certainly wishing this one was invented sooner. Say hello to MEDi.

MEDi, short for Medicine and Engineering Designing Intelligence, has come a long way since trying out Tai Chi back in 2012. The robot, part of a project led by Tanya Beran, a professor of community health sciences at the University of Calgary in Alberta, was created to comfort children through medical procedures. Watch it at work:

Can I get one just to hang out with? It seems pretty cool.

Yahoo writes:

Beran headed a study that observed 57 children of varying ages. Each was randomly assigned a vaccination session with a nurse, who used the same standard procedures to dispense the medication. In some of those sessions, MEDi used cognitive-behavioral strategies to assuage the children as they got the shot. Afterward, children, parents, and nurses filled out surveys to estimate the pain and distress of the whole shebang. 

The study, published in the June 2013 issue of Vaccine, found that those kids who had MEDi by their sides during the procedure reported much less pain than their robot-less counterparts.

“It’s going to introduce himself and build a rapport. It’ll tell them what to expect,” Mark Williams, a MEDi rep, told Yahoo Tech. “But once they get involved in the medical procedure itself, it’ll tell them what they should be doing, how they should be breathing, and how they should be coping. It’s choreographed along with the medical procedure itself, so he’s giving the right advice, he’s watching them and responding to their actions during the procedure itself.”

MEDi, which is now available for hospitals to purchase, comes with facial recognition technology (it will remember a child who’s in for frequent visits), can speak 20 different languages, and is able to adapt to the particular situation it’s put in. But it will cost a pretty penny. Yahoo writes, “Though MEDi’s body — made by Aldebaran Robotics — retails for $9,000, the applications required for him to aid in medical procedures bring that total to anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000, depending on what the staff wants him to do.”

In my opinion, it’s worth it. The piece goes on to note Beran is still working on MEDi “so that he has routines for procedures that parents aren’t always alloweed to be in the room for. These range from blood transfers to surgery to chemotherapy.”

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Jill Pantozzi is a pop-culture journalist and host who writes about all things nerdy and beyond! She’s Editor in Chief of the geek girl culture site The Mary Sue (Abrams Media Network), and hosts her own blog “Has Boobs, Reads Comics” ( She co-hosts the Crazy Sexy Geeks podcast along with superhero historian Alan Kistler, contributed to a book of essays titled “Chicks Read Comics,” (Mad Norwegian Press) and had her first comic book story in the IDW anthology, “Womanthology.” In 2012, she was featured on National Geographic’s "Comic Store Heroes," a documentary on the lives of comic book fans and the following year she was one of many Batman fans profiled in the documentary, "Legends of the Knight."