Meet Huggable, the interactive robot providing comfort and fun to paediatric cancer patients

Who knew robots could offer such comfort! The Huggable is a robotic companion created to assist children with cancer and their families mitigate stress, pain and the anxiety associated with treatment.

Currently being trialled at the Boston Children’s Hospital, the plush robot has become an integral part of the children’s team. As part of a project to assess whether patients emotionally connect with interactive robots, plush teddy bears or virtual characters on screens, the former is coming out on top.

The developers Personal Robotics Group, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used Android smartphone technology to create the robot so that its movements could be controlled in a small space.

Research specialist Sooyeong Jeong said, “That’s how the robot became smaller and more mobile so we can actually put it right by the bedside.”

Several research studies have demonstrated that children undergoing treatment tend to minimize their emotional distress and are at risk of suffering from anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Huggable is a ray of hope, heralding a new era for the emotional wellbeing of the youngest patients with the most serious conditions.

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‘Forgotten digital century’ looms warns Google boss

Blogs, tweets, pictures and videos, even official documents  and emails are at risk of being lost forever because the programs needed to view them in are becoming defunct with every upgrade.

Vint Cerf, Google’s vice-president has warned that our first steps into the digital world could be lost forever into what  is essentially a digital ‘black hole’.

“When you think about the quantity of documentation from our daily lives that is captured in digital form, like our interactions by email, people’s tweets, and all of the world wide web, it’s clear that we stand to lose an awful lot of our history,” Cerf told reporters.

“We don’t want our digital lives to fade away. If we want to preserve them, we need to make sure that the digital objects we create today can still be rendered far into the future,” he added.

Cerf  in an address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in San Jose, California, warned of a “forgotten generation, or even a forgotten century” due to what he coined “bit rot”, where older computer files and programs become useless.

“We are nonchalantly throwing all of our data into what could become an information black hole without realising it. We digitise things because we think we will preserve them, but what we don’t understand is that unless we take other steps, those digital versions may not be any better, and may even be worse, than the artefacts that we digitised,” Cerf told the Guardian. “If there are photos you really care about, print them out.”

His warning underpins the irony at the heart of our digital world, where precious moments, photos, letters and other documents are digitised in the hope of ensuring the long term survival.

Yet while progress is being made in storing digital files for centuries to come, the programs and software needed to make sense of the files is continually falling out of use.

Coupled with the issue of inventing new technology to copy and store such files is the issue of legal permissions. If technology or IT companies go out of business and stop supporting their products, they may sell the rights to their products making it a nightmare to try and obtain them later on.

“To do this properly, the rights of preservation might need to be incorporated into our thinking about things like copyright and patents and licensing. We’re talking about preserving them for hundreds to thousands of years,” said Cerf.

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