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Management of type 1 diabetes in children is boosted by robots

Children happy to interact with humanoid robots

Could robots play an increasing role in managing type 1 diabetes in children?

Humanoid robots appeal to children with type 1 diabetes  Photo: iStock

A survey led by the University of Liverpool concludes that young patients are receptive to the use of humanoid robots, and that the younger the children are, the more they are prepared to accept the advice of an assistant on castors.

A total of 37 children, aged 6 to 16, were introduced to a robot during their regular clinic visits over a three-month period, and their response to the electronic advice and education was assessed and quantified.

The target was to see if robots could improve diabetes self-management. The initial findings suggested they can play a realistic role.

Overall, 86.7% of subjects were happy to interact with robots, with six to nine-year-olds showing the highest level of acceptability (94.8%) and 13-16s proving more sceptical (83%). Boys and girls responded with the same degree of enthusiasm.

The most popular feature of the robot was found to be the electronic advice given about high and low blood glucose levels.

However, participants showed less interest in the robot’s calculations about insulin doses with meals.

Other trials have suggested robots can become surrogate friends and reinforce behavioural changes. Nurses reported that robots could also provide a useful distraction when they took blood.

Al-Taee MA et al (2016) Acceptability of robot assistant in management of type 1 diabetes in children. Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics. doi: 101089/dia.2015.0428

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