Using a Robot to Ease a Child’s Pain – NYTimes.com.

The researchers randomly assigned the children to one of two groups: one with routine vaccination protocol administered by a nurse, and the other with the addition of MEDi in the room. In the MEDi group, the robot would converse with the child and pick up a toy, noting that it was dusty. As the nurse rolled up the child’s sleeve and swabbed the arm, MEDi would have the youngster blow on the toy to help clean it, timing the request to exhale for the moment the nurse injected the needle.

“The robot was distracting the child during distress, but also giving instruction for how to cope,” said Dr. Beran. “Deep breathing relaxes the deltoid muscle.”

I think this is fantastic. Sure, helping kids get injected is all well and good [there are other ways… and you can imagine non-patented ways to achieve this], but to me, this Soother-Bot suggests how robots will one day have a soul. [Or appear to have one (see Turing Test)]. It feels troubled, and it doesn’t presume it can solve all problems–these are, among others, fundamental qualities of beings that we can love. Why? Partly because we’re vain, and partly because we’re (rightly) scared by omnipotence.

It’s something like modern dogs, bred to be adolescent, eager but flawed. Needy. That’s how we’ll breed robots. Meanwhile, the government will keep doing this.

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