Boston, MA — Ok, maybe Huggable is more than an app. He’s really a social robot prototype. And, a teddy bear. He’s blue. But, he’s designed to make his friends feel less blue with interactions designed to alleviate anxiety, pain and isolation for children in a hospital.

Right off, he’ll totally remind you of the touchable, huggable therapeutic robot Baymax, but he’s much more Wizard of Oz than Big Hero 6. All his behaviors and conversation are controlled by an operator on a nearby laptop.

Dr. Peter Weinstock, the director of the Simulator Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and Cynthia Breazeal, the director of the personal robots group at MIT.’s Media Lab are teamed up in a trial of Huggable’s impact on the “fourth vital sign”: children’s emotional health. All the children are recorded on video and wear a bracelet, called a Q Sensor, that measures physiological changes.

For the kids themselves, the interactions with Huggable are just about having fun and making enduring long hospital stays a little easier. He plays iSpy, asks them to tell him jokes and gets every nuance of the interactions just right thanks to that operator behind the curtain. The result of the 90-person study will tell us if a robot can help humanize healthcare.

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for shaping the company’s perspective on the next era of healthcare marketing. Through thought leadership, strategic innovation workshops and new products and capabilities, Leigh focuses on identifying marketing approaches that will fuel that new era and generate significant growth for clients. Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for over 17 years. She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she had several leadership roles at one of our agencies, GSW. There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business. Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes. A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice, Leigh also was recognized as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.