Rennie the Robot will try to help children feel more comfortable and less anxious when they are first visiting the region’s health facilities.
Rennie the Robot will try to help children feel more comfortable and less anxious when they are first visiting the region’s health facilities.

The key to getting children comfortable with hospitals

ANY parent will tell you how much their child loves technology.

It's distracting, fun and interactive, which is exactly what a new collaboration between the Engineering and Nursing departments at CQUni has been working to achieve.

Rennie the Robot made his social debut at the simulated children's ward at the Nursing Labs at CQUni and more than 10 parents and children turned out for the demonstration.

Rennie the Robot has big plans for the future, but his programmers mainly hope he will provide a calming and friendly introduction to hospitals and medical environments for children.

The project, which has been in the works for years, was tested in a clinical-like environment for the first time this month.

It will help the engineers, nurses and psychologist working on the program to better understand how it works in a real-life environment.

Children and parents attended the event, and many of the children were fascinated by Rennie the Robot's tricks.

Through introduction modules teaching children about the administration processes of a hospital, handwashing and storytelling, Rennie has a whole range of interactive capabilities.

CQUni's Steven Moore, who is based in Rockhampton, has overseen a lot of the projects and said he was excited to see where it wouldgo.

He said he thought the technology had promising uses for the future.

"We think a robot would be a useful adjunct for reducing anxiety in paediatric wards in particular and aged care. I think there is a lot of work in Virtual Reality and things that this technology is pushing for," the Deputy Dean for Research at the School of Engineering and Technology said.

Rennie is about the size of a child aged six to eight years and has been designed that way to be less intimidating.

"Rennie is about three years old. We want him to be about as young or younger than the kids, so it is fun and it is amazing how the robot … has little interactions or something it will do spontaneously,' he said.

Professor Kerry Reid-Searl was instrumental in developing the program and is also looking forward to seeing the practical uses of this technology.


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