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Prescription Health: Robotic puppies are therapeutic

1 month 20 hours 40 minutes ago Wednesday, April 17 2024 Apr 17, 2024 April 17, 2024 10:44 AM April 17, 2024 in News

A new study suggests that children who spend time with therapy dogs can lower their stress level even more than relaxation exercises. That outcome becomes even more important for kids in the hospital.

Josh Summitt, 7, misses walking his dogs during his time at the hospital. So, Stanford Children's Health introduced him to the next best thing.

"I kinda felt a little bit nervous to meet the dogs, but after I met them, they were very, very friendly," Joshua said.

The robotic dogs, known as Max, Otis, and Stride, are Stanford's way to curb the anxiety being felt by their young patients.

The endeavor is a collaboration between the university's robotic students and the hospital's Chariot Program, which seeks out innovations that can help patients.

"A lot of robotics technologies get developed in a lab and never has any real impact on the world, but we can see immediately the impact, cheering these kids up," Stanford University engineering student Gabriel Levine said.

While therapy animals have long been known to help reduce pain, anxiety, and depression, doctors are encouraged that the robot dogs are already showing some of the same benefits.

"It's amazing. They're so joyful. I think that having these robotic puppies be a part of our team has allowed us to engage them in a way that was not possible before," Chariot Program Co-Director Ellen Wang said.

"We've had experiences in the past where a patient enjoyed hanging out with the robot so much he almost forgot he was going to surgery, and that's really powerful," Anesthesiologist Teresa Nguyen said.

Josh's mom has also seen a difference.

"And it's really sparked his curiosity. He can still be seven and be excited and play," Amelia said.

Stanford Children's Health is just completing its pilot phase with the robots, and based upon the popular response, this is only the beginning.

The Stanford students are now developing a new version of the robot dog that promises to be more agile than before.

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